Server Caching and Joomla

This morning we worked on a bizarre project that was a very welcome challenge to our Joomla skills! The project was not hard: it consisted of modifying a custom made extension on a Norwegian healthcare website, and it was supposed to take us a maximum of 30 minutes, but instead, it took us the whole morning! The cause of this was server caching!

Before we tell you what happened, let us explain briefly what server caching is.

Server caching is an application installed on the server that will load a cached version of your files instead of loading the real version. The server will refresh its cache periodically (typically every 5 minutes) which means that a change that you make on any of your files does not appear on the website until after a maximum of 5 minutes. The upside of this is that it will lower the load on the server, but on the flip side, if you make changes to your files, you won’t see these changes immediately, and you’ll most likely think that you are working on the wrong files.

In this day and age, this kind of server caching is only used by companies that overpopulate their servers. Server caching is a sign of technical weakness and a sign of a hosting company that tries to make more pennies on the dollar rather than giving a better, faster, and more reliable service.

In any case, let’s go back to our experience with the healthcare website this morning – we were trying to work on one file, we knew it was the right file, but our changes were just not appearing, so we were reverting our changes and trying something else (like clearing the cache, checking if the cache is cleared, double and triple checking that we’re working on the right file, etc…). At one point we thought that our customer gave us the wrong FTP credentials, but a simple test (we created a file called test.php that echoed a test string and then uploaded it to the root directory of the website to see if it’s working, and it was) proved us wrong – our customer did give us the right credentials. Eventually, after a lot of work, we discovered that the server was caching files for 5 minutes (e.g. the cache timed out every 5 minutes and it was refreshed from the current filesystem). Even when we discovered that, the work still took us much more than expected because we had to wait 5 minutes everytime we made a change in order to see it. Not very practical – especially when you’re making changes every 2 minutes!

If your changes do not appear immediately on your Joomla website and you’re sure that you have cleared your Joomla cache, then it might be that your server’s cache – check with your hosting company and ask them to move you to another server that does not cache files, especially if your Joomla website is mission critical.

Now if you’re having problems with your Joomla website – even if they are very weird – then we’re here to help, and we know everything about Joomla! So don’t hesitate, contact us, and you’ll see how fast, efficient, friendly, and professional we are. Oh, and our rates are really, really affordable!

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