What Is Website Caching?

Have you ever seen a prompt, or been instructed, to “clear your cache”? What does this mean? What is website caching? It’s actually a big topic – but we’ll try to break down the basics for you.

Websites are viewed many, many times per month – some sites experience visitor numbers in the millions. When a web browser puts in a request to access a particular website, the server must enact an array of complex calculations which are time-consuming. The server consequently retrieves the site including its header, footer, sidebar widgets, and content. Without caching, every single one of these requests and its resultant calculations is carried out individually and repetitively.

Caching enables the server to instead recall and deliver the final result of calculations once they have been performed for a single search.

What is Caching?

The term “cache” comes from the French “cacher” which means “to hide”. Caching is the process whereby copies of files are temporarily stored for easy access.

Caching provides temporary storage, as HTML files, for web content to be easily accessed at a later time. It is used everywhere online from web servers to online browsers. Caching is an important part of website and application optimisation.

How does your content move from your website to a visitor’s browser?

  1. The user loads or clicks on your URL
  2. Their browser sends a request to your server (HTTP request)
  3. Your server calculates your results and sends them to their browser. This can be slowed by failure to minify scripts and optimise image sizes, etc.
  4. Transmitted files are displayed by the user’s browser as your website. Every time the visitor clicks on a new page on your site, the process repeats. UNLESS YOUR SITE IS CACHED!

For Example, you own a website. A visitor requests to see your home page; their request is received by and processed on your server, and your page is demonstrated and converted into an HTML file for delivery to the visitor’s web browser. When caching is enabled on your home page, its HTML file is stored on the server within RAM. When it is viewed in future, the processing by the server to convert and deliver the HTML version of your page has already been done – making delivery of your content fast and easy for the visitor to access.

Types of Caching

There are different types of caching that are associated with web hosting and web development:

Browser Caching – allows a browser to store fonts, Javascript files, stylesheets, and other aspects of page content. It saves a copy of files from a website on a user’s device hard drive. Only new or updated content on a page needs to be loaded for future website visits.

Server Caching – may be:

Object cache – simply stores small pieces of data so only part of a website is saved for use in the future. This is limited ideally to use for static websites.

Full-page cache – stores a full page and saves results – this is standard server caching. It is ideal for sites that publish content on a regular basis. It reduces strain on a server and streamlines overall processes.

There are other more complex types of caching including data caching, proxy caching, application caching, and distributed caching.

Why is Caching Important?

The importance of caching can’t be understated. Internet users are not known for their patience and a site that loads slowly will be abandoned very quickly. When a user’s web browser stores a copy of your web page, it reduces the server load, bandwidth, and lag associated with your site.

Website caching dramatically improves the speed and functionality of a website, resulting in not only better user experience but also more favourable SEO scores. If you run an online business, caching is an important key to higher website visitor satisfaction, better conversion rates, and higher revenue.

A website that is coded well can load in a matter of a couple of seconds. Combining caching of both browser and server maximises the speed of website load and delivery. It also optimises the performance of your website and enables it to better handle sudden spikes in traffic.

Caching Benefits:

  • Improved performance
  • Quicker load time
  • Handle traffic spikes better
  • Better user experience
  • Less memory used on your hosting server
  • Save money on web hosting services

How to Clear your Cache

Your cache may be emptied and regenerated when new content is published or other conditions are met.

If your website is offline, if you can’t see changes you’ve made to your site, or if your name servers aren’t set, it may be due to caching. In this instance, you may need to clear your cache. How you achieve this depends upon the browser you use (e.g. Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Opera).

MAKE SPARX YOUR DIGITAL AGENCY!

As your digital marketing agency, we are here to empower your business! We help guide you along the dynamic and ever-evolving path that is business marketing. We simplify things for you and do the research on your behalf – in a way that is creative, strategic, and gets results. Ultimately, we help you feel comfortable enough to embrace the world of digital marketing for your business’s success. You remain in charge – with us guiding you all the way.

Contact us at Sparx Digital today to understand more about caching and to discover how we can help you revamp your digital marketing strategy and boost your brand’s success.

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