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What is Web Caching?

If you’ve ever tried to access a website or a resource online that has taken a long time to load, you’ll know that it can be frustrating. In certain cases, these long waiting periods are due to the fact that your request is far away from the website’s server, and therefore the request must travel all the way to the server’s location and all the way back. This results in latency, and latency equals waiting time. However, thankfully there are many methods available to webmasters to help improve their overall website performance optimization. One of these methods involves using web caching. In this article, we’re going to discuss what exactly web caching is, how it works, and why it’s important.

What is Web Caching?

Web caching is the activity of storing data for reuse, such as a copy of a web page served by a web server. It is cached or stored the first time a user visits the page and the next time a user requests the same page, a cache will serve the copy, which helps keep the origin server from getting overloaded.

Web caching solutions and strategies enhance page delivery speed significantly and reduce the work needed to be done by the backend server. Caching servers can be set to refresh at specific intervals or in response to certain events to ensure that the freshest content is cached (useful for rapidly changing information, such as breaking news or rapidly changing pricing). Caching can also protect against total outages, delivering already cached content when servers are down.

web caching

How does it work?

Web caching works by intercepting requests for web content and checking to see if the content is already stored in the cache. If the content is available in the cache, the cache server returns it to the user without having to contact the origin server. This process is known as a cache hit. If the content is not available in the cache, the cache server will retrieve the content from the origin server and store it in the cache for future requests. This process is known as a cache miss.

Web caching uses different caching algorithms to determine which content to store in the cache and how long to keep it. The most common caching algorithm is the Least Recently Used (LRU) algorithm, which removes the least recently used content from the cache when the cache reaches its maximum capacity.

Why is Web Caching important?

The main benefit of web caching is improved speed. However, it can also:

  • Minimize load. A web browser won’t rely on the website’s server to display a cached page. It results in fewer server requests, minimizing load and maintaining uptime.
  • Reduce bandwidth consumption. With caching, a web browser can display a website without downloading static content. Less data means lower bandwidth consumption, allowing the website to load faster on a slow connection.
  • Complement search engine optimization (SEO). Loading speed is one of Google’s website ranking metrics. Since caching speeds up your site, it helps improve your site’s ranking.
  • Improve user experience (UX). Slow load time can drive visitors away from your website. Visitors will have a more pleasant user experience if your site loads quickly. Run a website speed test to check its performance.
  • Increase conversion rates. Research shows that improving load time by a few seconds can significantly increase conversion rate. A slow website entices visitors to leave immediately without taking any action, harming your business.

Caching Types

Based on different criteria, you can find tons of caching classifications: public, private, client-side, server-side, page caching, opcode and object caching, and more. But for now, you need to understand the two crucial distinctions when it comes to web caching:

  • Browser caching

Browser caching, or client-side caching, stores the website’s content on the end user’s local machine. After displaying a website, the page’s resources are stored temporarily. On the next visit, the website can load using the browser cache, eliminating the need to connect to the server repeatedly. Browser caching is effective as the site’s resources are stored locally. However, if you switch to another device or browser, it must fetch the website’s data from the server once again.

  • Server caching

Server caching saves the cached website’s data on the server. After processing the requested resources into an HTML file, the server will store it temporarily. When a user revisits the same web page, the server has the requested HTML file ready to send. It doesn’t have to recompile the queried resources, shortening the process. Typically, server caching is done using a content delivery network (CDN). Web browsers will automatically download the cache from the closest CDN server to speed up load times.

web caching

How to clear Web Caching?

Although beneficial, storing a cache for too long may trigger several issues. An old cache may contain obsolete information, preventing users from viewing the updated version of the web page.

Clearing your browser cache helps fix an issue by prompting it to fetch new site data. For website owners, clear the cache using a WordPress plugin or your web hosting control panel’s cache manager.

Conclusion

We can say that although web caching is a very advantageous solution to reduce the bandwidth and the load on the server, it is equally dangerous in leaking highly sensitive information in a few cases. So, it is advised to properly analyze the web objects in your application that need to be cached and which should not be cached to maintain the application security and also to improve the performance.

Knowledge

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