CDN Capacity Numbers Don't Matter

Push or Pull? A Detailed Comparison of Caching Methods for Your Company

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CacheFly Team

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Date Posted:

August 22, 2023

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Key takeaways:

  • File caching is a way to store temporary copies of frequently-accessed files where they are accessible to users quickly and easily. 
  • Companies use file caching for to minimize the time it takes to load files from the server, reduce server load, and optimize bandwidth efficiency, scalability, and cost savings.
  • Two primary methods of caching, Push Caching and Pull Caching, operate differently, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
  • The best way to choose a suitable caching method for your organization is to evaluate your company’s specific needs, do a comparative analysis, and get expert advice if necessary.

File caching is a method of storing temporary copies of frequently-accessed files or data closer to the user than if they have to be fetched from regular data storage. The cache serves as a buffer between the end-user and the original data source. When a file is requested, the system checks if a cached copy exists. If available and up to date, it’s delivered directly, bypassing the original source. If not, the file is retrieved from the source and stored in the cache for future use, with an associated expiration time. 

Why Companies Use File Caching

Companies use file caching for several compelling reasons to improve their workers’ efficiency, performance, and user satisfaction. Effective caching delivers numerous benefits for everyone involved, such as:

  1. Faster Load Times

By storing copies of frequently accessed files closer to the user, file caching reduces the amount of time needed to fetch the data from the original source. This leads to quicker access and faster load times.

  1. Lighter Server Load

By serving files from the cache instead of repeatedly retrieving them from the original server, caching minimizes the strain on server resources. This leads to a lighter server load and increased stability in the overall system.

  1. Bandwidth Efficiency

Caching helps reduce the amount of data transmitted over the network, saving bandwidth. This is particularly beneficial for companies with significant data transfer needs or those operating in bandwidth-constrained environments.

  1. Enhanced User Experience

Faster access to files and reduced latency contribute to a smoother, more responsive user experience. Whether it’s a customer browsing a web page or an employee accessing a critical application, file caching ensures that they don’t have to wait unnecessarily.

  1. Better Scalability

File caching enables companies to handle increased traffic and user requests without overloading the original servers. This scalability is essential for businesses experiencing growth or dealing with fluctuating demand.

  1. Cost Savings

By optimizing server utilization and bandwidth consumption, file caching can lead to cost savings in infrastructure and operational expenses.

  1. Increased Reliability

Caching provides a level of redundancy, ensuring that if the original server is temporarily unavailable, the cached content can still be accessed.

Two Types of Caching

At Cachefly we offer two types of file caching, namely “Push” caching and “Pull” caching. Here’s how each caching method operates, along with its respective pros and cons.

a. Push Caching (Upload Method)

Think of push caching as a proactive approach. You directly upload files to the Content Delivery Network (CDN) servers. Once there, they’re ready to be served to users without needing to fetch them from the original source. Benefits of this method include:

  • Optimal Handling of Large Files: Push caching shines when dealing with large files like videos or podcasts.
  • Guaranteed Quality of Service: You have more control, ensuring consistent performance even on the first request.
  • No Need to Purge Objects: Once uploaded, files stay on the CDN until you decide to update or remove them.

However, nothing comes without some disadvantages, and some cons exist with this method of caching. First, manual management is required, meaning you’ll need to handle the uploading and updating of files, which might require additional effort or automation. Second, when you’re dealing with a large number of small files, there’s a potential “overhead” of extra processing time, effort, or resources required for each file. This can cause you to use more resources less effectively for small files, leading to slower performance or higher costs. 

If this form of caching seems like it isn’t the solution for your company’s needs, consider the following option.

b. Pull Caching (Reverse Proxy/Origin Pull):

Pull caching is more reactive than the push method. The CDN automatically “pulls” files from your origin domain as users request them. After the first request, the CDN stores a copy, serving it to subsequent users without going back to the original source. Benefits of this method include:

  • Ease of Configuration: The CDN does most of the work, pulling files as needed, making it simpler to set up.
  • Real-Time Purging: You can quickly remove or update cached files, ensuring fresh content.
  • Suitable for High Traffic with Small Files: If you have many small files and high traffic, pull caching can be a more efficient option.

As with push caching, the pull caching method offers a few disadvantages. There might be potential delays on the first request, causing the first user to experience a slight wait as the CDN retrieves the file. Additionally, handling large files might be less efficient in pull caching compared to push caching, adding an extra layer of complexity to consider when selecting the best method for your purposes.

Identifying the Best Method for Your Company

Push and pull caching both have their good and bad points, but deciding which method is the perfect fit for your company requires careful consideration. Start by taking a close look at what your company specifically requires. Are you dealing with large media files or numerous small documents? What are your typical traffic patterns? Understanding these factors will help you pinpoint the method that aligns with your unique needs.

Next, do a comparative analysis. Weigh the pros and cons of push and pull caching side by side. Consider how each method fits into your current infrastructure and future goals. Consult with a professional to clarify any lingering questions you have and ensure that you’re on the path to success. 

Cachefly’s CDN solution offers both options for customers, and we’re ready to help you determine the best path forwards. Contact us at support@cachefly.com for personalized help from our experts. 

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