What is Caching?

computer chip

Many individuals are unfamiliar with the term “cache” and most of those who have come across it have only done so when they clear their web browser’s history. Even then, many do not know what the term is referring to.

A cache, pronounced “cash”, is a part of a computer’s memory that specializes in storing information that has been recently used on a temporary basis. This includes a variety of content such as images, HTML pages, web objects, files, and more, all of which are taken and put within the local hard drive. By doing this, the computer is allowed to run faster for users accessing it, increasing overall efficiency and interaction. An example of this would be going to a web page you have previously accessed as your computer will be loading the information from its cached data rather than the website’s server. This also keeps server traffic down which is the main reason why large web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, and more take advantage of caching.

How Caching Works

Understanding what the cache is is one thing, but knowing how it works is another. The caching process is simple as a cache client checking the cache when it is in need of data. If the data that is required is found within the cache it is referred to as a cache hit. This is contrary to a cache miss which is in reference to when the requested data is not found in the cache. In this scenario, the data is then taken from the main memory and duplicated into the cache.

App Caching

Websites and browsers are not the only things using caching, as apps that work using web and cloud data apply the same process. A prime example of this is the Spotify app many people use to listen to their favorite music. As individuals who have used the app know, you can download tracks in order to have them accessible if your phone ever loses signal. When this happens, caching is taking place because the app is downloading a temporary file that can be accessed at any time, including times of little to no signal when it is often hard or impossible to stream music.

Although extremely useful, caching also has a few potential downsides as it can expose user’s information to unwanted individuals. On a website that uses caching, it is possible that user information can be stored and seen by any hacker that gains access to the site, this can also be said for individuals who have caching data stored on a public computer’s browser that is accessible to anyone who can work a computer. For this reason, it is smart to clear your caching data whenever convenient.

Aidan Kelleher
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