Introduction to Website Caching and Why is it Important

The complex computing environment is constantly sending and receiving information across servers. While in transit, this information has to be stored, so the next time, someone needs the same, they can easily access it without delay. This is broadly what Caching is about.

What is caching?

In the most layman terms, Caching is defined as the process of storing data and information temporarily within a computing environment. Whenever a user visits a web page, the page data is automatically stored on the user’s system, on their respective browser. When they return to the page, the browser retrieves the information from the cache, without having to reach out to the original server all over again. The data is usually cached on a virtual server, which is located in close proximity to the end user, thus reducing the page loading time. For instance, when your site visitor visits your webpage for the first time, the web browser stores the user’s data as soon as the page loads. On their next visit, the page tends to load faster, since the information is already saved temporarily in a cache subdirectory.

Types of caching

Server Caching – Whenever a user is visiting a webpage, a series of information requests are sent to the site server so that the page can load. The server then retrieves the files as requested, executes a code relevant to the request, and then displays the information to the end user. Server caching helps store high volumes of data, which can otherwise slow down a site, thus radically boosting the site loading speed. This type of caching is best for websites which are highly dynamic and content heavy like social sites, music and video sites, gaming, news, or e-commerce.

Browser Caching – As also explained earlier, web browser stores all information related to a webpage, including HTML, CSS, media, and JavaScript files. If a website has a lot of such files, then the user is most likely to face longer loading time (especially with slow internet). Also, with each file loading separately, it also burdens the site server. With browser caching, these files can be easily stored on the user’s browser.

Reverse Caching – Apart from these, there is also another method of Caching that is widely used, called Reverse Caching. It is one of the smarter techniques that boosts the website speed. Whenever a site server receives a request from the web, it runs the request through a proxy server and caches the required data therein, and sends it out to the user whenever requested. This helps cut down the loading time by as much as 1000%. Varnish Cache is one such reverse caching engines, which are widely used by web hosts and integrated within a cloud hosting service.

Why Caching?

Caching is one of the best-proven techniques for addressing the speed issue of a website. And better speed translates to more traffic and eventually, better performance. Better site performance yields better user experience, and thus better rankings on search results.

Summing up…

Website speed is one of the major determiners of whether a user will stay or leave the site/page. No matter how great a website is, the longer it takes to load, the more opportunities for converting a visitor are lost. The key to a successful site is to retain its users as much as possible. Choosing the caching methods that best fit your business domain can help you do just the same.