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<p class="apache">Apache HTTP Server Version 2.5</p>
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<a href="">Apache</a> &gt; <a href="">HTTP Server</a> &gt; <a href="">Documentation</a> &gt; <a href="./">Version 2.5</a></div><div id="page-content"><div id="preamble"><h1>Caching Guide</h1>
<div class="toplang">
<p><span>Available Languages: </span><a href="./en/caching.html" title="English">&nbsp;en&nbsp;</a> |
<a href="./fr/caching.html" hreflang="fr" rel="alternate" title="Français">&nbsp;fr&nbsp;</a> |
<a href="./tr/caching.html" hreflang="tr" rel="alternate" title="Türkçe">&nbsp;tr&nbsp;</a></p>
<p>This document supplements the <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code>,
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code>, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html">mod_file_cache</a></code> and <a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> reference documentation.
It describes how to use the Apache HTTP Server's caching features to accelerate web and
proxy serving, while avoiding common problems and misconfigurations.</p>
<div id="quickview"><ul id="toc"><li><img alt="" src="./images/down.gif" /> <a href="#introduction">Introduction</a></li>
<li><img alt="" src="./images/down.gif" /> <a href="#http-caching">Three-state RFC2616 HTTP caching</a></li>
<li><img alt="" src="./images/down.gif" /> <a href="#socache-caching">Two-state Key/Value Shared Object Caching</a></li>
<li><img alt="" src="./images/down.gif" /> <a href="#file-caching">Specialized File Caching</a></li>
<li><img alt="" src="./images/down.gif" /> <a href="#security">Security Considerations</a></li>
</ul><ul class="seealso"><li><a href="#comments_section">Comments</a></li></ul></div>
<div class="top"><a href="#page-header"><img alt="top" src="./images/up.gif" /></a></div>
<div class="section">
<h2><a name="introduction" id="introduction">Introduction</a></h2>
<p>The Apache HTTP server offers a range of caching features that
are designed to improve the performance of the server in various
<dt>Three-state RFC2616 HTTP caching</dt>
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code>
and its provider modules
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code>
provide intelligent, HTTP-aware caching. The content itself is stored
in the cache, and mod_cache aims to honor all of the various HTTP
headers and options that control the cacheability of content
as described in
<a href="">Section
13 of RFC2616</a>.
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code>
is aimed at both simple and complex caching configurations, where
you are dealing with proxied content, dynamic local content or
have a need to speed up access to local files on a potentially
slow disk.
<dt>Two-state key/value shared object caching</dt>
The <a href="socache.html">shared object cache API</a> (socache)
and its provider modules provide a
server wide key/value based shared object cache. These modules
are designed to cache low level data such as SSL sessions and
authentication credentials. Backends allow the data to be stored
server wide in shared memory, or datacenter wide in a cache such
as memcache or distcache.
<dt>Specialized file caching</dt>
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html">mod_file_cache</a></code>
offers the ability to pre-load
files into memory on server startup, and can improve access
times and save file handles on files that are accessed often,
as there is no need to go to disk on each request.
<p>To get the most from this document, you should be familiar with
the basics of HTTP, and have read the Users' Guides to
<a href="urlmapping.html">Mapping URLs to the Filesystem</a> and
<a href="content-negotiation.html">Content negotiation</a>.</p>
</div><div class="top"><a href="#page-header"><img alt="top" src="./images/up.gif" /></a></div>
<div class="section">
<h2><a name="http-caching" id="http-caching">Three-state RFC2616 HTTP caching</a></h2>
<table class="related"><tr><th>Related Modules</th><th>Related Directives</th></tr><tr><td><ul><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code></li><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code></li></ul></td><td><ul><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cacheenable">CacheEnable</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachedisable">CacheDisable</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/core.html#usecanonicalname">UseCanonicalName</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_negotiation.html#cachenegotiateddocs">CacheNegotiatedDocs</a></code></li></ul></td></tr></table>
<p>The HTTP protocol contains built in support for an in-line caching
<a href="">
described by section 13 of RFC2616</a>, and the
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> module can be used to take advantage of
<p>Unlike a simple two state key/value cache where the content
disappears completely when no longer fresh, an HTTP cache includes
a mechanism to retain stale content, and to ask the origin server
whether this stale content has changed and if not, make it fresh
<p>An entry in an HTTP cache exists in one of three states:</p>
If the content is new enough (younger than its <strong>freshness
lifetime</strong>), it is considered <strong>fresh</strong>. An
HTTP cache is free to serve fresh content without making any
calls to the origin server at all.
<p>If the content is too old (older than its <strong>freshness
lifetime</strong>), it is considered <strong>stale</strong>. An
HTTP cache should contact the origin server and check whether
the content is still fresh before serving stale content to a
client. The origin server will either respond with replacement
content if not still valid, or ideally, the origin server will
respond with a code to tell the cache the content is still
fresh, without the need to generate or send the content again.
The content becomes fresh again and the cycle continues.</p>
<p>The HTTP protocol does allow the cache to serve stale data
under certain circumstances, such as when an attempt to freshen
the data with an origin server has failed with a 5xx error, or
when another request is already in the process of freshening
the given entry. In these cases a <code>Warning</code> header
is added to the response.</p>
<dt>Non Existent</dt>
If the cache gets full, it reserves the option to delete content
from the cache to make space. Content can be deleted at any time,
and can be stale or fresh. The <a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> tool can be
run on a once off basis, or deployed as a daemon to keep the size
of the cache within the given size, or the given number of inodes.
The tool attempts to delete stale content before attempting to
delete fresh content.
<p>Full details of how HTTP caching works can be found in
<a href="">
Section 13 of RFC2616</a>.</p>
<h3>Interaction with the Server</h3>
<p>The <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> module hooks into the server in two
possible places depending on the value of the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachequickhandler">CacheQuickHandler</a></code> directive:
<dt>Quick handler phase</dt>
<p>This phase happens very early on during the request processing,
just after the request has been parsed. If the content is
found within the cache, it is served immediately and almost
all request processing is bypassed.</p>
<p>In this scenario, the cache behaves as if it has been "bolted
on" to the front of the server.</p>
<p>This mode offers the best performance, as the majority of
server processing is bypassed. This mode however also bypasses the
authentication and authorization phases of server processing, so
this mode should be chosen with care when this is important.</p>
<dt>Normal handler phase</dt>
<p>This phase happens late in the request processing, after all
the request phases have completed.</p>
<p>In this scenario, the cache behaves as if it has been "bolted
on" to the back of the server.</p>
<p>This mode offers the most flexibility, as the potential exists
for caching to occur at a precisely controlled point in the filter
chain, and cached content can be filtered or personalized before
being sent to the client.</p>
<p>If the URL is not found within the cache, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code>
will add a <a href="filter.html">filter</a> to the filter stack in order
to record the response to the cache, and then stand down, allowing normal
request processing to continue. If the content is determined to be
cacheable, the content will be saved to the cache for future serving,
otherwise the content will be ignored.</p>
<p>If the content found within the cache is stale, the
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> module converts the request into a
<strong>conditional request</strong>. If the origin server responds with
a normal response, the normal response is cached, replacing the content
already cached. If the origin server responds with a 304 Not Modified
response, the content is marked as fresh again, and the cached content
is served by the filter instead of saving it.</p>
<h3>Improving Cache Hits</h3>
<p>When a virtual host is known by one of many different server aliases,
ensuring that <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/core.html#usecanonicalname">UseCanonicalName</a></code> is
set to <code>On</code> can dramatically improve the ratio of cache hits.
This is because the hostname of the virtual-host serving the content is
used within the cache key. With the setting set to <code>On</code>
virtual-hosts with multiple server names or aliases will not produce
differently cached entities, and instead content will be cached as
per the canonical hostname.</p>
<h3>Freshness Lifetime</h3>
<p>Well formed content that is intended to be cached should declare an
explicit freshness lifetime with the <code>Cache-Control</code>
header's <code>max-age</code> or <code>s-maxage</code> fields, or
by including an <code>Expires</code> header.</p>
<p>At the same time, the origin server defined freshness lifetime can
be overridden by a client when the client presents their own
<code>Cache-Control</code> header within the request. In this case,
the lowest freshness lifetime between request and response wins.</p>
<p>When this freshness lifetime is missing from the request or the
response, a default freshness lifetime is applied. The default
freshness lifetime for cached entities is one hour, however
this can be easily over-ridden by using the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachedefaultexpire">CacheDefaultExpire</a></code> directive.</p>
<p>If a response does not include an <code>Expires</code> header but does
include a <code>Last-Modified</code> header, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code>
can infer a freshness lifetime based on a heuristic, which can be
controlled through the use of the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachelastmodifiedfactor">CacheLastModifiedFactor</a></code> directive.</p>
<p>For local content, or for remote content that does not define its own
<code>Expires</code> header, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_expires.html">mod_expires</a></code> may be used to
fine-tune the freshness lifetime by adding <code>max-age</code> and
<p>The maximum freshness lifetime may also be controlled by using the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachemaxexpire">CacheMaxExpire</a></code>.</p>
<h3>A Brief Guide to Conditional Requests</h3>
<p>When content expires from the cache and becomes stale, rather than
pass on the original request, httpd will modify the request to make
it conditional instead.</p>
<p>When an <code>ETag</code> header exists in the original cached
response, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> will add an
<code>If-None-Match</code> header to the request to the origin server.
When a <code>Last-Modified</code> header exists in the original
cached response, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> will add an
<code>If-Modified-Since</code> header to the request to the origin
server. Performing either of these actions makes the request
<p>When a conditional request is received by an origin server, the
origin server should check whether the ETag or the Last-Modified
parameter has changed, as appropriate for the request. If not, the
origin should respond with a terse "304 Not Modified" response. This
signals to the cache that the stale content is still fresh should be
used for subsequent requests until the content's new freshness lifetime
is reached again.</p>
<p>If the content has changed, then the content is served as if the
request were not conditional to begin with.</p>
<p>Conditional requests offer two benefits. Firstly, when making such
a request to the origin server, if the content from the origin
matches the content in the cache, this can be determined easily and
without the overhead of transferring the entire resource.</p>
<p>Secondly, a well designed origin server will be designed in such
a way that conditional requests will be significantly cheaper to
produce than a full response. For static files, typically all that is
involved is a call to <code>stat()</code> or similar system call, to
see if the file has changed in size or modification time. As such, even
local content may still be served faster from the cache if it has not
<p>Origin servers should make every effort to support conditional
requests as is practical, however if conditional requests are not
supported, the origin will respond as if the request was not
conditional, and the cache will respond as if the content had changed
and save the new content to the cache. In this case, the cache will
behave like a simple two state cache, where content is effectively
either fresh or deleted.</p>
<h3>What Can be Cached?</h3>
<p>The full definition of which responses can be cached by an HTTP
cache is defined in
<a href="">
RFC2616 Section 13.4 Response Cacheability</a>, and can be summed up as
<li>Caching must be enabled for this URL. See the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cacheenable">CacheEnable</a></code> and <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachedisable">CacheDisable</a></code> directives.</li>
<li>The response must have a HTTP status code of 200, 203, 300, 301 or
<li>The request must be a HTTP GET request.</li>
<li>If the response contains an "Authorization:" header, it must
also contain an "s-maxage", "must-revalidate" or "public" option
in the "Cache-Control:" header, or it won't be cached.</li>
<li>If the URL included a query string (e.g. from a HTML form GET
method) it will not be cached unless the response specifies an
explicit expiration by including an "Expires:" header or the max-age
or s-maxage directive of the "Cache-Control:" header, as per RFC2616
sections 13.9 and 13.2.1.</li>
<li>If the response has a status of 200 (OK), the response must
also include at least one of the "Etag", "Last-Modified" or
the "Expires" headers, or the max-age or s-maxage directive of
the "Cache-Control:" header, unless the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cacheignorenolastmod">CacheIgnoreNoLastMod</a></code>
directive has been used to require otherwise.</li>
<li>If the response includes the "private" option in a "Cache-Control:"
header, it will not be stored unless the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachestoreprivate">CacheStorePrivate</a></code> has been
used to require otherwise.</li>
<li>Likewise, if the response includes the "no-store" option in a
"Cache-Control:" header, it will not be stored unless the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachestorenostore">CacheStoreNoStore</a></code> has been
<li>A response will not be stored if it includes a "Vary:" header
containing the match-all "*".</li>
<h3>What Should Not be Cached?</h3>
<p>It should be up to the client creating the request, or the origin
server constructing the response to decide whether or not the content
should be cacheable or not by correctly setting the
<code>Cache-Control</code> header, and <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> should
be left alone to honor the wishes of the client or server as appropriate.
<p>Content that is time sensitive, or which varies depending on the
particulars of the request that are not covered by HTTP negotiation,
should not be cached. This content should declare itself uncacheable
using the <code>Cache-Control</code> header.</p>
<p>If content changes often, expressed by a freshness lifetime of minutes
or seconds, the content can still be cached, however it is highly
desirable that the origin server supports
<strong>conditional requests</strong> correctly to ensure that
full responses do not have to be generated on a regular basis.</p>
<p>Content that varies based on client provided request headers can be
cached through intelligent use of the <code>Vary</code> response
<h3>Variable/Negotiated Content</h3>
<p>When the origin server is designed to respond with different content
based on the value of headers in the request, for example to serve
multiple languages at the same URL, HTTP's caching mechanism makes it
possible to cache multiple variants of the same page at the same URL.</p>
<p>This is done by the origin server adding a <code>Vary</code> header
to indicate which headers must be taken into account by a cache when
determining whether two variants are different from one another.</p>
<p>If for example, a response is received with a vary header such as;</p>
<div class="example"><p><code>
Vary: negotiate,accept-language,accept-charset
<p><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> will only serve the cached content to
requesters with accept-language and accept-charset headers
matching those of the original request.</p>
<p>Multiple variants of the content can be cached side by side,
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> uses the <code>Vary</code> header and the
corresponding values of the request headers listed by <code>Vary</code>
to decide on which of many variants to return to the client.</p>
<h3><a name="disk" id="disk">Caching to Disk</a></h3>
<p>The <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> module relies on specific backend store
implementations in order to manage the cache, and for caching to disk
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code> is provided to support this.</p>
<p>Typically the module will be configured as so;</p>
<pre class="prettyprint lang-config">
CacheRoot "/var/cache/apache/"
CacheEnable disk /
CacheDirLevels 2
CacheDirLength 1
<p>Importantly, as the cached files are locally stored, operating system
in-memory caching will typically be applied to their access also. So
although the files are stored on disk, if they are frequently accessed
it is likely the operating system will ensure that they are actually
served from memory.</p>
<h3>Understanding the Cache-Store</h3>
<p>To store items in the cache, <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code> creates
a 22 character hash of the URL being requested. This hash incorporates
the hostname, protocol, port, path and any CGI arguments to the URL,
as well as elements defined by the Vary header to ensure that multiple
URLs do not collide with one another.</p>
<p>Each character may be any one of 64-different characters, which mean
that overall there are 64^22 possible hashes. For example, a URL might
be hashed to <code>xyTGxSMO2b68mBCykqkp1w</code>. This hash is used
as a prefix for the naming of the files specific to that URL within
the cache, however first it is split up into directories as per
the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlevels">CacheDirLevels</a></code> and
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlength">CacheDirLength</a></code>
<p><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlevels">CacheDirLevels</a></code>
specifies how many levels of subdirectory there should be, and
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlength">CacheDirLength</a></code>
specifies how many characters should be in each directory. With
the example settings given above, the hash would be turned into
a filename prefix as
<p>The overall aim of this technique is to reduce the number of
subdirectories or files that may be in a particular directory,
as most file-systems slow down as this number increases. With
setting of "1" for
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlength">CacheDirLength</a></code>
there can at most be 64 subdirectories at any particular level.
With a setting of 2 there can be 64 * 64 subdirectories, and so on.
Unless you have a good reason not to, using a setting of "1"
for <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlength">CacheDirLength</a></code>
is recommended.</p>
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html#cachedirlevels">CacheDirLevels</a></code>
depends on how many files you anticipate to store in the cache.
With the setting of "2" used in the above example, a grand
total of 4096 subdirectories can ultimately be created. With
1 million files cached, this works out at roughly 245 cached
URLs per directory.</p>
<p>Each URL uses at least two files in the cache-store. Typically
there is a ".header" file, which includes meta-information about
the URL, such as when it is due to expire and a ".data" file
which is a verbatim copy of the content to be served.</p>
<p>In the case of a content negotiated via the "Vary" header, a
".vary" directory will be created for the URL in question. This
directory will have multiple ".data" files corresponding to the
differently negotiated content.</p>
<h3>Maintaining the Disk Cache</h3>
<p>The <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code> module makes no attempt to
regulate the amount of disk space used by the cache, although it
will gracefully stand down on any disk error and behave as if the
cache was never present.</p>
<p>Instead, provided with httpd is the <a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> tool which allows you
to clean the cache periodically. Determining how frequently to run <a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> and what target size to
use for the cache is somewhat complex and trial and error may be needed to
select optimal values.</p>
<p><a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> has two modes of
operation. It can be run as persistent daemon, or periodically from
cron. <a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> can take up to an hour
or more to process very large (tens of gigabytes) caches and if you are
running it from cron it is recommended that you determine how long a typical
run takes, to avoid running more than one instance at a time.</p>
<p>It is also recommended that an appropriate "nice" level is chosen for
htcacheclean so that the tool does not cause excessive disk io while the
server is running.</p>
<p class="figure">
<img src="images/caching_fig1.gif" alt="" width="600" height="406" /><br />
<a id="figure1" name="figure1"><dfn>Figure 1</dfn></a>: Typical
cache growth / clean sequence.</p>
<p>Because <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code> does not itself pay attention
to how much space is used you should ensure that
<a href="programs/htcacheclean.html">htcacheclean</a> is configured to
leave enough "grow room" following a clean.</p>
</div><div class="top"><a href="#page-header"><img alt="top" src="./images/up.gif" /></a></div>
<div class="section">
<h2><a name="socache-caching" id="socache-caching">Two-state Key/Value Shared Object Caching</a></h2>
<table class="related"><tr><th>Related Modules</th><th>Related Directives</th></tr><tr><td><ul><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_authn_socache.html">mod_authn_socache</a></code></li><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_dbm.html">mod_socache_dbm</a></code></li><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_dc.html">mod_socache_dc</a></code></li><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_memcache.html">mod_socache_memcache</a></code></li><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_shmcb.html">mod_socache_shmcb</a></code></li><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html">mod_ssl</a></code></li></ul></td><td><ul><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_authn_socache.html#authncachesocache">AuthnCacheSOCache</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html#sslsessioncache">SSLSessionCache</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html#sslstaplingcache">SSLStaplingCache</a></code></li></ul></td></tr></table>
<p>The Apache HTTP server offers a low level shared object cache for
caching information such as SSL sessions, or authentication credentials,
within the <a href="socache.html">socache</a> interface.</p>
<p>Additional modules are provided for each implementation, offering the
following backends:</p>
<dt><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_dbm.html">mod_socache_dbm</a></code></dt>
<dd>DBM based shared object cache.</dd>
<dt><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_dc.html">mod_socache_dc</a></code></dt>
<dd>Distcache based shared object cache.</dd>
<dt><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_memcache.html">mod_socache_memcache</a></code></dt>
<dd>Memcache based shared object cache.</dd>
<dt><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_socache_shmcb.html">mod_socache_shmcb</a></code></dt>
<dd>Shared memory based shared object cache.</dd>
<h3><a name="mod_authn_socache-caching" id="mod_authn_socache-caching">Caching Authentication Credentials</a></h3>
<table class="related"><tr><th>Related Modules</th><th>Related Directives</th></tr><tr><td><ul><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_authn_socache.html">mod_authn_socache</a></code></li></ul></td><td><ul><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_authn_socache.html#authncachesocache">AuthnCacheSOCache</a></code></li></ul></td></tr></table>
<p>The <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_authn_socache.html">mod_authn_socache</a></code> module allows the result of
authentication to be cached, relieving load on authentication backends.</p>
<h3><a name="mod_ssl-caching" id="mod_ssl-caching">Caching SSL Sessions</a></h3>
<table class="related"><tr><th>Related Modules</th><th>Related Directives</th></tr><tr><td><ul><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html">mod_ssl</a></code></li></ul></td><td><ul><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html#sslsessioncache">SSLSessionCache</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html#sslstaplingcache">SSLStaplingCache</a></code></li></ul></td></tr></table>
<p>The <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_ssl.html">mod_ssl</a></code> module uses the <code>socache</code> interface
to provide a session cache and a stapling cache.</p>
</div><div class="top"><a href="#page-header"><img alt="top" src="./images/up.gif" /></a></div>
<div class="section">
<h2><a name="file-caching" id="file-caching">Specialized File Caching</a></h2>
<table class="related"><tr><th>Related Modules</th><th>Related Directives</th></tr><tr><td><ul><li><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html">mod_file_cache</a></code></li></ul></td><td><ul><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#cachefile">CacheFile</a></code></li><li><code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#mmapfile">MMapFile</a></code></li></ul></td></tr></table>
<p>On platforms where a filesystem might be slow, or where file
handles are expensive, the option exists to pre-load files into
memory on startup.</p>
<p>On systems where opening files is slow, the option exists to
open the file on startup and cache the file handle. These
options can help on systems where access to static files is
<h3><a name="filehandle" id="filehandle">File-Handle Caching</a></h3>
<p>The act of opening a file can itself be a source of delay, particularly
on network filesystems. By maintaining a cache of open file descriptors
for commonly served files, httpd can avoid this delay. Currently httpd
provides one implementation of File-Handle Caching.</p>
<p>The most basic form of caching present in httpd is the file-handle
caching provided by <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html">mod_file_cache</a></code>. Rather than caching
file-contents, this cache maintains a table of open file descriptors. Files
to be cached in this manner are specified in the configuration file using
the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#cachefile">CacheFile</a></code>
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#cachefile">CacheFile</a></code> directive
instructs httpd to open the file when it is started and to re-use
this file-handle for all subsequent access to this file.</p>
<pre class="prettyprint lang-config">
CacheFile /usr/local/apache2/htdocs/index.html
<p>If you intend to cache a large number of files in this manner, you
must ensure that your operating system's limit for the number of open
files is set appropriately.</p>
<p>Although using <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#cachefile">CacheFile</a></code>
does not cause the file-contents to be cached per-se, it does mean
that if the file changes while httpd is running these changes will
not be picked up. The file will be consistently served as it was
when httpd was started.</p>
<p>If the file is removed while httpd is running, it will continue
to maintain an open file descriptor and serve the file as it was when
httpd was started. This usually also means that although the file
will have been deleted, and not show up on the filesystem, extra free
space will not be recovered until httpd is stopped and the file
descriptor closed.</p>
<h3><a name="inmemory" id="inmemory">In-Memory Caching</a></h3>
<p>Serving directly from system memory is universally the fastest method
of serving content. Reading files from a disk controller or, even worse,
from a remote network is orders of magnitude slower. Disk controllers
usually involve physical processes, and network access is limited by
your available bandwidth. Memory access on the other hand can take mere
<p>System memory isn't cheap though, byte for byte it's by far the most
expensive type of storage and it's important to ensure that it is used
efficiently. By caching files in memory you decrease the amount of
memory available on the system. As we'll see, in the case of operating
system caching, this is not so much of an issue, but when using
httpd's own in-memory caching it is important to make sure that you
do not allocate too much memory to a cache. Otherwise the system
will be forced to swap out memory, which will likely degrade
<h4>Operating System Caching</h4>
<p>Almost all modern operating systems cache file-data in memory managed
directly by the kernel. This is a powerful feature, and for the most
part operating systems get it right. For example, on Linux, let's look at
the difference in the time it takes to read a file for the first time
and the second time;</p>
<div class="example"><pre>
colm@coroebus:~$ time cat testfile &gt; /dev/null
real 0m0.065s
user 0m0.000s
sys 0m0.001s
colm@coroebus:~$ time cat testfile &gt; /dev/null
real 0m0.003s
user 0m0.003s
sys 0m0.000s</pre></div>
<p>Even for this small file, there is a huge difference in the amount
of time it takes to read the file. This is because the kernel has cached
the file contents in memory.</p>
<p>By ensuring there is "spare" memory on your system, you can ensure
that more and more file-contents will be stored in this cache. This
can be a very efficient means of in-memory caching, and involves no
extra configuration of httpd at all.</p>
<p>Additionally, because the operating system knows when files are
deleted or modified, it can automatically remove file contents from the
cache when necessary. This is a big advantage over httpd's in-memory
caching which has no way of knowing when a file has changed.</p>
<p>Despite the performance and advantages of automatic operating system
caching there are some circumstances in which in-memory caching may be
better performed by httpd.</p>
<h4>MMapFile Caching</h4>
<p><code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html">mod_file_cache</a></code> provides the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#mmapfile">MMapFile</a></code> directive, which
allows you to have httpd map a static file's contents into memory at
start time (using the mmap system call). httpd will use the in-memory
contents for all subsequent accesses to this file.</p>
<pre class="prettyprint lang-config">
MMapFile /usr/local/apache2/htdocs/index.html
<p>As with the
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#cachefile">CacheFile</a></code> directive, any
changes in these files will not be picked up by httpd after it has
<p> The <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_file_cache.html#mmapfile">MMapFile</a></code>
directive does not keep track of how much memory it allocates, so
you must ensure not to over-use the directive. Each httpd child
process will replicate this memory, so it is critically important
to ensure that the files mapped are not so large as to cause the
system to swap memory.</p>
</div><div class="top"><a href="#page-header"><img alt="top" src="./images/up.gif" /></a></div>
<div class="section">
<h2><a name="security" id="security">Security Considerations</a></h2>
<h3>Authorization and Access Control</h3>
<p>Using <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> in its default state where
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachequickhandler">CacheQuickHandler</a></code> is set to
<code>On</code> is very much like having a caching reverse-proxy bolted
to the front of the server. Requests will be served by the caching module
unless it determines that the origin server should be queried just as an
external cache would, and this drastically changes the security model of
<p>As traversing a filesystem hierarchy to examine potential
<code>.htaccess</code> files would be a very expensive operation,
partially defeating the point of caching (to speed up requests),
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> makes no decision about whether a cached
entity is authorised for serving. In other words; if
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> has cached some content, it will be served
from the cache as long as that content has not expired.</p>
<p>If, for example, your configuration permits access to a resource by IP
address you should ensure that this content is not cached. You can do this
by using the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachedisable">CacheDisable</a></code>
directive, or <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_expires.html">mod_expires</a></code>. Left unchecked,
<code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code> - very much like a reverse proxy - would cache
the content when served and then serve it to any client, on any IP
<p>When the <code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cachequickhandler">CacheQuickHandler</a></code>
directive is set to <code>Off</code>, the full set of request processing
phases are executed and the security model remains unchanged.</p>
<h3>Local exploits</h3>
<p>As requests to end-users can be served from the cache, the cache
itself can become a target for those wishing to deface or interfere with
content. It is important to bear in mind that the cache must at all
times be writable by the user which httpd is running as. This is in
stark contrast to the usually recommended situation of maintaining
all content unwritable by the Apache user.</p>
<p>If the Apache user is compromised, for example through a flaw in
a CGI process, it is possible that the cache may be targeted. When
using <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code>, it is relatively easy to
insert or modify a cached entity.</p>
<p>This presents a somewhat elevated risk in comparison to the other
types of attack it is possible to make as the Apache user. If you are
using <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache_disk.html">mod_cache_disk</a></code> you should bear this in mind -
ensure you upgrade httpd when security upgrades are announced and
run CGI processes as a non-Apache user using <a href="suexec.html">suEXEC</a> if possible.</p>
<h3>Cache Poisoning</h3>
<p>When running httpd as a caching proxy server, there is also the
potential for so-called cache poisoning. Cache Poisoning is a broad
term for attacks in which an attacker causes the proxy server to
retrieve incorrect (and usually undesirable) content from the origin
<p>For example if the DNS servers used by your system running httpd
are vulnerable to DNS cache poisoning, an attacker may be able to control
where httpd connects to when requesting content from the origin server.
Another example is so-called HTTP request-smuggling attacks.</p>
<p>This document is not the correct place for an in-depth discussion
of HTTP request smuggling (instead, try your favourite search engine)
however it is important to be aware that it is possible to make
a series of requests, and to exploit a vulnerability on an origin
webserver such that the attacker can entirely control the content
retrieved by the proxy.</p>
<h3>Denial of Service / Cachebusting</h3>
<p>The Vary mechanism allows multiple variants of the same URL to be
cached side by side. Depending on header values provided by the client,
the cache will select the correct variant to return to the client. This
mechanism can become a problem when an attempt is made to vary on a
header that is known to contain a wide range of possible values under
normal use, for example the <code>User-Agent</code> header. Depending
on the popularity of the particular web site thousands or millions of
duplicate cache entries could be created for the same URL, crowding
out other entries in the cache.</p>
<p>In other cases, there may be a need to change the URL of a particular
resource on every request, usually by adding a "cachebuster" string to
the URL. If this content is declared cacheable by a server for a
significant freshness lifetime, these entries can crowd out
legitimate entries in a cache. While <code class="module"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html">mod_cache</a></code>
provides a
<code class="directive"><a href="./mod/mod_cache.html#cacheignoreurlsessionidentifiers">CacheIgnoreURLSessionIdentifiers</a></code>
directive, this directive should be used with care to ensure that
downstream proxy or browser caches aren't subjected to the same denial
of service issue.</p>
<div class="bottomlang">
<p><span>Available Languages: </span><a href="./en/caching.html" title="English">&nbsp;en&nbsp;</a> |
<a href="./fr/caching.html" hreflang="fr" rel="alternate" title="Français">&nbsp;fr&nbsp;</a> |
<a href="./tr/caching.html" hreflang="tr" rel="alternate" title="Türkçe">&nbsp;tr&nbsp;</a></p>
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