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Caching Web Sites With PEAR Cache
Improve site performance with a PHP-driven cache

| A Cache For Every Need |

First up, what's a cache? According to one definition, a cache "is a store of information that is designed to improve the accessibility or availability of data to the user." Simply put, it is a location where copies of information are kept so they can sent to the user quickly and without using scarce Internet resources.

Caches can be maintained at various levels depending on the requirements of the user. Unknown to many, the most commonly used caching mechanism is the Web browser itself. Modern Web browsers download content to a temporary location on the hard drive before rendering it to the user. And usually, if you visit the same page again, the browser will just pick it up from the local cache (unless you configured it otherwise).

At a workplace, it's highly likely that you share your Internet connection with a large group of users, through a proxy server. Clever network administrators often use the proxy server's cache to save copies of frequently-requested pages. Subsequent requests for such pages are directly serviced from the proxy server's cache. This system is usually replicated at different levels of the food chain - it's not uncommon to find ISPs caching content in order to reduce traffic that might otherwise eat up precious bandwidth on their Internet backbone.

Finally, Web sites often implement a caching system to serve their own content faster. In its simplest form, such a system consists of sending static "snapshots" of dynamic pages to clients, rather than re-creating the pages anew in response to every request. This reduces server load, and frees up resources for other tasks. The snapshots are refreshed at regular intervals to ensure they are reasonably "fresh". This is the type of caching discussed in this tutorial.

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