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An iPhone being cleared of all caching materials and browsing history.

Caching? What does that mean?

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White beaded letters spelling out "Caching."

Have you heard the word “caching” but had no idea what it meant? Did you nod along, hiding your curiosity and confusion? We’ve been there too, and we followed our curiosity. So, what is caching, and how does it work?

What is caching?

Caching is essentially a way to store and recall previously used data. A cache is a hardware or software that stores and then retrieves old data without having to dig into files and enduring a long process of finding what you need by storing transient, or temporary, data. Transient data is discarded after use, and therefore lighter and easier to handle due to loading speed. A cache stores copies of files in a temporary location to access more easily the next time the web page is searched. Caching also drives down costs by loading more data than a regular, full database would in record time.

For example, a browser cache will copy the files of a website you search on your computer. That way, when you go to that web page again, all the files are already downloaded and the web page will come up more quickly. If you were to clear your browser cache, all files would be deleted. This means that the web page would load much more slowly because your computer is downloading the files.

How can caching help you?

While understanding the technical aspects of caching can be a little confusing, the results of using a cache are much simpler and of great value. Caching can help web and app hosts in a myriad of ways. It can:

  • Improve app performance by speeding up the memory recall
  • Reduce database cost by using memory rather than a database
  • Reduce loading on your database and therefore prevent a site crash
  • Improve performance speed for heavily accessed data (like a celebrity profile)
  • Can respond to and organize thousands of requests at a time

The key takeaway is that caching can improve the speed and performance of an app or website. Databases can be slow and have trouble responding to an increased number of requests, but caching mitigates this by accessing the data faster and more easily.