Websites are a lot like cars and webmasters are a lot like gear heads. We’re always trying to make our websites look better, do more, and go faster. Once upon a time, websites mostly consisted of a bunch of static text files linked together with the relatively simple HTML markup language to format the text, insert pictures, and make links to other pages and sites. Now days, most web pages are actually dynamically generated by program code usually executing on the server side and sometimes both on the server and in your web browser, and it’s done each time, when a visitor requests the page. This can add considerably load to the web server and slow down the generation of pages. I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s nothing worse than a slow website.
One easy way to speed up a website is to implement page caching so that frequently requested pages are dynamically generated once by a caching engine and then served up many times, rather than being dynamically generated by the server each time the page is requested. This reduces server load and increases page delivery times. Some caching engines can also cache web pages as compressed files which can be delivered as-is if the visitor’s browser knows how to handle compressed files. There are other tricks to improve performance, and you can get some impressive speed improvements using these techniques. I’ve been using a rudimentary caching engine on this site for some time now but I decided to look at other options and after some research I settled on a new higher performance engine which promises noticeable speed improvement. Best of all, it’s free.
The downside to caching and the reason I’m posting about this at all is that you run the risk of delivering old content if the caching engine doesn’t pick up on the fact that a page has been changed. I don’t expect this to be a problem but wanted everyone to be aware of what’s going on here, server-side. Browsers also cache files so the problem can be compounded. Usually, hitting the reload button on your browser will result in getting the most up-to-date file. This new caching engine is pretty good about deciding when it should deliver a cached page and when it should generate a new page. This new caching engine is highly configurable: certain pages (such as our funky Webcam page) can be designated “Don’t Cache.”