To more easily illustrate my point, we’re going to call our server Steve. Steve is a mastermind operator behind your website. Think of the old time telephone operators – but note, Steve is alone with your entire website of information.
When people dial up your website (though not LITERALLY anymore – but you get my drift), it’s like a phone call to the Steve, who responds by sending all of the appropriate information along to the user. When they click to a new page, he transfers the call and connects them with the information there.
To ensure efficiency, Steve has set a cache – that we’ll think of as an egg timer. (The duration of the timer can vary, depending on how the site developer has them set. They can range in time from 5 minutes to 5 days, or really whatever period you’d like. Yours is currently set to one hour.) The timer goes off and Steve scans the code for any NEW information that may have changed since the last time this timer went off. He then updates that information, and doles it out to all of the “callers” – working as efficiently as possible. As soon as the timer goes off, he takes a break – scans the site for new things, and then resets the timer again. (In short, Steve is being taken advantage of and should really appeal to some mandatory labor laws.)
To maximize your site speed – and Steve’s efficiency/production – the LONGER the cache in place. After all, the less breaks he takes, the faster he can serve the people. (Then again, this would be at the “cost” of potentially outdated information – especially when we are moving at the speed of light nowadays.)
But… what about BROWSER Caching?
Browser caching works similarly – expect the operator behind those calls (we’ll call him Bob), sits on your browser – be that Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, or whatever browser of your choosing – and acts more like a gatekeeper. Bob has some preset functions and an egg timer (cache) of his own. Depending on which browser you’re using, the defaults may be different, which is why we often ask you to “clear your cache” and encourage you to visit http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/. 🙂 Google Chrome users can often see success by opening an “Incognito Window” because in this world, Bob has been laid off.