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Cache server – The Definitive Guide

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What is a cache server?

A cache server also referred to as a cache engine, is a type of network service that saves internet content and web pages locally. This is done by placing information that was previously requested online in temporary storage called cache.

A cache server speeds up access to web information while reducing demand on bandwidth used by an enterprise. The cache also ensures users can access web content while offline, including rich media files.

A cache server is also commonly used as a proxy server. This is a server that intercepts internet requests and manages them for users. This is done because a firewall protects the organization’s resources.

The server allows outgoing requests and screens all incoming traffic. A proxy server makes it possible to match incoming messages with the outgoing requests. By doing this, the cache server is able to cache received files for later recall by a user.

cache server

The cache and proxy servers are invisible to web users. Instead, all internet requests seem as though they return from the address users place on the internet.

What is caching?

Caching is the process of storing file copies in a cache server for quick access. While a cache is any temporary storage location for data or files, the term is commonly used when referring to internet technologies.

DNS servers are used to cache DNS records for easier lookup access, CDN server cache content for reduced latency while web browsers cache JavaScript, HTML files, and images to ensure websites can load faster.

How caching works?

Generally, the data in a cache is stored in fast access hardware like RAM (Random Access Memory). It can also be used in correlation with software components.

The primary purpose of a cache is to enhance data retrieval speed by removing the need to access underlying storage layers, which can make the process slower. By trading capacity for speed, cache transiently stores a subset of data instead of a whole database of complete data.

Because of the high request rates of Input/output operations per second (IOPS) supported by in-memory engines and RAM, caching reduces cost on scale by improving data retrieval.

An organization needs to invest in additional resources to achieve the same retrieval speed using traditional disc-based hardware and databases. This would drive up the cost, and it would still be challenging to achieve the latency performance offered by in-memory caching.

Caching can be applied and leveraged through different technology levels, including in operating systems, networking layers like CDN (Content Delivery Networks) and DNS, databases, and web applications.

Caching can be used to reduce latency and improve IOPS for most read-heavy applications like Q&A portals, media sharing sites, gaming sites, and even social networking sites.

Cached information can include database queries results, API requests or responses, web artifacts like image files, HTML and JavaScript as well as intensive calculations.

For any of these applications, large data sets require to be accessed in real-time across various machines spanning hundreds of nodes to make a search possible. Caching makes it possible to do this in real-time without delays on the website platform.

Understanding the different types of caching

Database caching

Your database’s speed and throughput performance is an impactful factor that determines your application’s overall performance. Database caching makes it possible for you to increase the throughput by lowering latency in data retrieval when it comes to backend databases.

This leads to an improvement in the performance of applications. In this case, cache acts as an adjacent layer for data access to your database that your applications can use to improve performance. You can apply a database cache in any type of database, including NoSQL and relational databases. Common methods that can be used to load data to a cache include write-through methods and lazy loading.

General cache

For use-cases that do not need disk-based durability or transactional data support, using in-memory key-value data storage as a standalone database is an effective way of building high performance applications.

Apart from improved speeds, applications also record improved throughput at a lower price point. General cache can be used for referenceable data like category listings, product grouping and profile information.

CDN caching

A content delivery network or a CDN is a network that caches web content like videos, images or webpages in proxy servers located close to the origin server being used by web users. Because of the proximity of the proxy server to the user making the requests, a content delivery network delivers the content requested faster.

To make it easier to understand, you can consider CDNs as a chain of food stores. Instead of making the trip to where the food is grown originally, you only need to visit a local food store to get the food. This will take you minutes as opposed to days or hours should you have gone to the farm. In this way, CDN caches stock web page information to allow easier and faster loading of web pages.

How content is cached?

When a user requests content on a website that uses a CDN, the content delivery network locates the content from a server. It saves a copy of the content in the CDN cache server for future requests. This data will remain in the CDN cache and made available whenever it is requested.

CDN caching servers are located in data centers in different parts of the world. This ensures the servers are in proximity to users in need of accessing content. The closer a server is to a user, the faster the content retrieval process.

CDN caching benefits

Reduced bandwidth cost

By delivering content through a CDN cache proxy server, you eliminate the need for data retrieval from backend servers. This significantly reduces the cost of bandwidth, especially when delivering data to numerous website visitors. With CDN cache servers, an organization can reduce bandwidth costs by up to 80%, depending on the cacheable content percentage.

Improved user experience

With a global network distribution of cache proxy servers, CDN caching brings your web content closer to your website visitors, regardless of their location around the world. The ability to deliver the content they need fast improves access speed, which enhances the user experience. In turn, this reduces page abandonment rates and improves conversions.

Reliable content delivery

Modern CDN cache server software is made with a traffic capacity that exceeds the capabilities of normal enterprise networks. The best cache server is resilient and highly secure, enough to withstand sudden traffic surges without causing website crushes.

This would not be possible with self-hosted sites that are easily disrupted by unexpected surges in traffic and service attack denial. CDN cache servers are highly stable during moments when your website experiences a peak in traffic.

Smart cache control

Until recently, CDN caching was a hands-on process where web experts are required to manage an HTTP cache server or a cache server for isp manually. Even so, modern CDNs are offering new processes for easier monitoring and caching for a wider content range.

This saves you time and improves the overall efficiency of caching processes. These improved performance features are offered without affecting the cache server price from most developers.

This is a learning-based approach that relies on a content delivery network’s ability to track content usage patterns to auto-optimize storage and delivery.

The main benefit of smart caching control is the ability of a network to identify new caching opportunities for objects that are dynamically generated. Pieces of content newly generated with each visit may not be subject to change but are still considered as dynamic because of the technicality involved.

Other benefits of using smart cache control include:

  • Productive replications for high demand content
  • Cache adjustment for content popularity based on region
  • Automated cache rules for material that is accessed frequently
  • Time-sensitive archiving and expiry policies

Must have cache options

Even with smart cache capabilities, control is a requirement when it comes to optimal cache management. The must-have controls include:

Purge cache: this allows you to refresh cached files. Some providers only allow entire cache storage refreshing. Some CDN providers also limit the number of purges allowed over a predetermined period. The effectiveness of a purging request is determined by the time it takes to propagate through a network.

Never/always cache: this control allows you to manually override cache headers and tagging files that are always served from cache or those that have never been served. This control is useful in cache management, especially when used with bulk management options that allow the applications of these directives to file groups e.g., all JPG files in images/templates/folder.

Period cache: this is a refinement of the always cache control. It allows you to create a specified period when the object is to be served from the cache before refreshing. Cache for period can be accessed from the CDN GUI for easy management of specific files. This is a useful option when used for bulk file management, e.g., all JS files cached for at least five days.

How does BelugaCDN use caching?

BelugaCDN is a CDN service with data centers in different parts of the globe to ensure accelerated access to video content, websites, APIs, and other web assets. It integrates with other Beluga web services and products to give your business a reliable way of accelerating content delivery to end-users with minimum usage commitments.