Caches: What They Are and Tips for Using Them Effectively

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 23, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When browsing the internet, every second that a webpage spends loading can matter. Most people want devices that operate at the fastest possible speeds and aren't satisfied if they have to spend extra time waiting for a page to load. Caches are one method that website administrators and computer engineers use to keep pages loading quickly without the need for expensive, high-end hardware. In this article, we discuss what caches are, how to use them, the benefits of using caches as well as tips for using them.

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What is a cache?

A cache is a type of information storage that retains data after you have visited a site or used a service previously. Caches are technological save states that speed up loading times, as they allow you to retain critical information on your local hardware rather than needing to load the information again once you revisit the page or piece of content. Websites that store cached information on your system are able to reference that information whenever the site loads, significantly reducing your wait times. Nearly every website and content platform use caches to help increase efficiency and reliability.

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How do you use caches?

Professionals primarily use caches to increase webpage loading speeds. However, websites are not the only things that utilize caches. Here are some other examples of cache use:

By your CPU

CPUs, or central processing units, are some of the fastest and most expensive pieces of hardware in everyday computers. Central processing units control nearly everything that your computer does, leveraging different pieces of hardware to output the interface with which users interact. CPUs make use of informational caches by storing information that they reference frequently. By keeping this information in a cache rather than processing it every time it needs the information, CPUs increase their operating efficiency.

By your apps

Most mobile apps make use of caches as well. Apps often have a large library of internal resources and assets that they reference to load their content. This can include images, videos, user interfaces and saved preferences. By storing information in caches, applications reduce the need for lengthy loading screens and lag times. App caches keep the assets that apps commonly use on standby so that the application does not need to make use of a large amount of processing power to load important information quickly.

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By your hard drives

Hard drives are the storage systems that computers and mobile devices use to hold information. Hard drives use caches to speed up processing times by keeping frequently used data loaded. By keeping this data loaded, hard drives reduce the need to spend time and resources recovering it whenever the system uses it as a reference. Hard drives are able to download, transfer and edit information quickly because it keeps important system files like your operating system stored in a cache.

By internet browsers

Internet browser caches are one of the most common types of cache, and one that most people interact with on a daily basis. Browsers cache information from sites you have visited so that they can load faster the next time you visit. Although browser caches are similar to webpage caches, internet browser caches are self-maintaining, meaning that they remove old or unneeded files on their own.

By your RAM

RAM stands for "random access memory," and it is a piece of hardware that your computer uses to process information. Along with your CPU, RAM helps keep your computer running smoothly by handling multiple programs at once. Without RAM, your computer would slow down and freeze if you attempted to multitask too many programs at once. RAM uses caches to assist with this process, as cached information helps load and run programs. By caching information, your RAM allows your system open multiple programs and perform a variety of different tasks without freezing or lagging.

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Benefits of using a cache

Whether it's your own hardware or websites you visit, you likely encounter multiple caches every time you use a computer. Here are some of the benefits of using caches:

Efficiency

Hardware that uses cache systems is generally faster and more efficient. Caches allow your system to reference information without using valuable resources to search for and load it. By caching the files that your computer references constantly, your system is able to utilize more processing resources on any applications you are currently running.

Offline access

Because caches save information locally on your system, you are able to access cached files even if your internet is down. This can be a huge benefit for people who need access to important documents but are unable to connect to the internet. Cached files provide access to website information that you would typically need to connect to the internet to see. Saving this type of web page data on your local system can save a lot of time and energy if you experience frequent internet outages.

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User experience

Because websites that use caches perform better, they generally offer a better user experience. This can be helpful with both customer retention and brand identity. A reputation for intuitive usability may also help you attract more clients to your company's online services and resources.

Different types of caches and tips for using them

Not every cache operates the same way. Different types of caches may be better than others depending on what your desired outcomes are. Here are some different types of caches and tips for using them:

Write-back caches

A write-back cache is a system where the relevant data stays in the cache, but the data does not immediately save to your system's local storage devices. A write-back cache is common for applications that make frequent changes to the cached information. This type of cache is ideal for applications like this because it has the lowest amount of latency due to the system not constantly saving the information. However, the cached information may be more likely to disappear as it only exists in the cache itself and not on internal memory.

Write-through caches

Write-through caches are a type of cache that saves information to the cache location and the system's memory at the same time. This type of cache is useful for applications that do not make frequent changes to the cached information but that require more secure save points for the information. Because the data stays in both the cache and the system memory, it is typically more secure. However, because your system is saving the information twice, a write-through cache may experience high latency with applications that constantly update cached data.

Write-around caches

A write-around cache only saves data to your slower internal memory. A write-around cache is useful for programs that do not make frequent updates to the cached information, as write-around caches can be slower than other types. This type of cache may not be ideal for applications that are constantly referencing cached information, as load speeds can be slow.

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