What Everyone Should Know about Website Cache

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If you pay attention to websites’ load speed, you must have noticed that after you open a website once, it starts to load faster all the subsequent times. That’s because of caching.

So what is this cache thing?

Cache (/kæʃ/ kash, or /ˈkeɪʃ/ kaysh) is a hardware or software component that stores data so that future requests for that data can be served faster.

So it’s all about storing the requested data for easier access later. Both the browser and the server make a cache for faster performance. There are two caching techniques: full-page caching and object (fragment) caching. The names speak for themselves: you can both cache the entire page or only separate objects in it, like heavy images.

You can’t even imagine how much your website speed impacts your traffic and conversions. If you’re using cache correctly, then your website will perform faster, and with higher speed come high conversion rates. Let’s see what are the two types of cache that you should know about.

1. Browser caching

The browser cache is a temporary storage space in the hard drive of the user’s computer. The storage contains files like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, images and all kinds of media.
Once a user visits your website, the browser saves some of the data to display it later without reaching out to your server again. Thus, browser cache speeds up your website for returning visitors.
Now you must wonder what happens with cache when you update your website. Do the visitors keep seeing the older version? The answer is no; not if you’re doing it right. To avoid this situation, most websites use ETag and Expire Tag.
The first one — ETag — is a token that compares the cached version of the website with the one on the actual server. When they vary, the browser requests the updated version of the website.
The second one — Expire Tag — is there to set up the period after which the cached version is removed from the browser. Website owners/administrators manage this tag and pick the average time they are having between updates.
Users can also manually clear their cache to avoid unwanted issues: see the guide with all the details here. The user can also just force refresh the website with these shortcuts:
Windows: ctrl + F5
Mac/Apple: Apple + R or command + R
Linux: F5

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2. Server caching

Server caching speeds up websites for anyone, not just the returning visitors. This is how it works: when browsers request a webpage, the server takes time to process those requests. After the first request (from any user) is fulfilled, the server “remembers” it and next time it delivers the same data to anyone faster.
On top of the hosting servers, there’s a caching system for DNS (domain name system). See, DNS is often called the phonebook of the Internet. It connects web addresses like 10web.io to hosting servers’ IP addresses like 28.56.8.252. The system operates through tons of servers called nameservers holding records about these addresses. Caching nameservers (also called DNS cache) store information about DNS queries for as long as the administrator decides. That period is called TTL (time to live) and is essential when you are changing your domain name or hosting.

Caching and CDN

The physical distance between a user and a server they request used to be a real issue for website load speed for a long time. Content delivery (distribution) network — CDN is the solution.

These networks consist of several servers located in different part of the world. They cache the commonly requested files of a web page (static content) and when a user enters a query, the nearest server responds with the ready-to-display content.

The servers are smart enough to recognize the device type, cookie settings, and other information about the user to cache and display the exact required pages.
CDN is also useful to deliver dynamic content — which is unique and not cached — faster.

Common website caching issues

However great the caching system is, no one is entirely safe from cache-related issues. These issues can specifically be related to a user’s device, user’s network, your CMS and to the web hosting. Let’s take a look at each.

  • User’s device

There are three common cases here. First, the browser cache didn’t update properly, so the user keeps seeing old content. Clearing the browser cache is enough here (see Browser Caching).

You can learn how to clear the DNS cache here (Windows 10 is not mentioned but works the same way as Windows 8).

And in a rare case, the problem can be in the user’s hosts file pointing to an incorrect IP. Hosts files point a hostname to IP addresses in the local network, so if the file is not edited manually, you should look for the issue elsewhere.

  • User’s network/connection provider

Both the user’s router and the Internet provider’s proxy server/router cache DNS records that eventually gets old. If that’s the issue, either the user has to turn off DNS caching or the provider should include the specific website in a do-not-cache list.

  • Your CMS

Many WordPress websites use a caching plugin or code to run the website faster. But these plugins can backfire. One of the common mistakes is using multiple caching plugins on one website. Most certainly, the plugins will conflict. Plus, even if there’s only one plugin/code on your WP site, make sure it updates the cached files as often as you post updates.

  • Web hosting

This is one of the most common issues. Changes are made on the website but the user is not able to view them in the browser, even after clearing browser cache and making sure everything’s alright with the connection. That must be due to server-side caching: the server keeps displaying the old cached data.
If the website is hosted on 10Web, clearing the cache is a one-click job for the administrator.

Caching with 10Web

Caching is an essential part of 10Web’s managed hosting service. It allows enabling and disabling website caching with a single switch and clearing the website cache with another click, right from the website management dashboard.

We use FastCGI by Nginx to make sure your website speed is at its best. Besides this benefit on the user’s side, FastCGI is designed for servers to allow many more requests at a time.

FastCGI is a protocol based on a CGI (common gateway interface). The newer protocol is faster because it doesn’t run each request as a separate process.

Nginx offers FastCGI that is highly compatible with WordPress.

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We strive to offer you the best hosting service; our next step is the launch of our Content Delivery Network (coming soon) which will make your website equally fast in any part of the world.

With 10Web, you get much more for your website performance than the best caching option out there. The managed WordPress hosting space on Google Cloud together with premium backup and security guarantee the unfailing performance of your website. Plus, we have image optimization services for you to fulfill your users’ needs at your best.

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Ani Barseghyan
Ani Barseghyan
Ani has been using WordPress for years, and now she gets to write about the solutions she's been looking for. Most of all, Ani enjoys writing about blogs and publishing.

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