How to speed up your website by caching content.

If your website doesn't get a whole lot of traffic, then you can probably skip this chapter completely. Just remember that it's here, waiting for your triumphant return.

On the other hand, you're probably hoping for massive amounts of traffic to reach your website very soon, an imminent sell-out to Google, and a good life drinking Margaritas in the Caribbean. Knowing a little bit about the CFWheels caching concepts will prepare you for this. (Except for the Margaritas... You're on your own with those ;).)

Consider a typical page on a CFWheels website. It will likely call a controller action, get some data from your database using a finder method, and render the view for the user using some of the handy built-in functions.

All this takes time and resources on your web and database servers. Let's assume this page is accessed frequently, rarely changes, and looks the same for all users. Then you have a perfect candidate for caching.

Configuring the Cache

CFWheels will configure all caching parameters behind the scenes for you based on what environment mode you are currently in. If you leave everything to CFWheels, caching will be optimized for the different environment modes (and set to have reasonable settings for cache size and culling). This means that all caching is off when working in Development mode but on when in Production mode, for example.

Here are the global caching parameters you can set, their default values, and a description of what they do. Because these are not meant to be set differently based on the environment mode, you would usually set these in the config/settings.cfm file:


maximumItemsToCache Setting

The total amount of items the cache can hold. When the cache is full, items will be deleted automatically at a regular interval based on the other settings below.

Note that the cache is stored in ColdFusion's application scope, so take this into consideration when deciding the number of items to store.

cacheCullPercentage Setting

This is the percentage of items that are culled from the cache when maximumItemsToCache has been reached.

For example, if you set this value to 10, then at most, 10% of expired items will be deleted from the cache.

If you set this to 100, then all expired items will be deleted. Setting it to 100 is perfectly fine for small caches but can be problematic if the cache is very large.

cacheCullInterval Setting

This is the number of minutes between each culling action. The reason the cache is not culled during each request is to keep performance as high as possible.

cacheDatePart Setting

The measurement unit to use during caching. The default is minutes ("n"), but you can set it to seconds ("s") for example if you want more precise control over when a cached item should expire. For the rest of this chapter, we'll assume you've left it at the default setting.

defaultCacheTime Setting

The number of minutes an item should be cached when it has not been specifically set through one of the functions that perform the caching in CFWheels (i.e., caches(), findAll(), includePartial(), etc).

cacheQueriesDuringRequest Setting

When set to true, CFWheels caches identical queries during a request. See the section titled Automatic Caching of Identical Queries below for more information about this setting.

clearQueryCacheOnReload Setting

When set to true, CFWheels will clear out all cached queries when doing a reload=true request. This is usually a good idea, but if you want to avoid hitting the database too hard on application reloads, you can set this to false to keep queries cached and ease the load on the database.

cachePlugins Setting

If you set this to false, all plugins will reload on each request (as opposed to during reload=true requests only). Setting this is only recommended if you are developing a plugin yourself and need to see the impact of your changes as you develop it on a per-request basis.

Environment-Level Caching

The following cache variables are usually set per environment mode:

// always turned on regardless of mode setting.
set(cacheControllerConfig = true);
set(cacheDatabaseSchema = true);
set(cacheModelConfig = true);
set(cachePlugins = true);

// Development mode example
set(cacheActions = false);
set(cacheFileChecking = false);
set(cacheImages = false);
set(cachePages = false);
set(cachePartials = false);
set(cacheQueries = false);

The settings shown above are what's in use in the Development mode. As you can see, when running in that mode, very little is cached. This makes it possible to do extensive changes without having to issue a reload=true request or restart the ColdFusion server, for example. The downside is that it makes for slightly slower development because the pages will not load as fast in this environment.

The variables themselves are fairly self-explanatory. When cacheDatabaseSchema is set to false, you can add a field to the database, and CFWheels will pick that up right away. When cacheModelConfig is false, any changes you make to the config() function in the model file will be picked up. And so on.

No more Design mode

Note that "Design" mode has been removed in CFWheels 2.x: please use development mode instead.

Please refer to the Configuration and Defaults chapter for a complete listing of all the variables you can set and their default values.

4 Ways to Cache

In CFWheels, you can cache data in 4 different ways:

  • Action caching is the most effective of these methods because it caches the entire resulting HTML for the user.

  • Page caching is similar to action caching, but it will only cache the view page itself and in reality, this caching method is rarely used.

  • Partial caching is used when you only want to cache specific parts of pages. One reason for this could be that the page is personalized for a specific user, and you can only cache the sections that are not personalized.

  • Query caching is the least effective of the 4 caching options because it only caches result sets that you get back from the database. But if you have a busy database and you're not too concerned with leaving pages/partials uncached, this could be a good option for you.

Action Caching

This code specifies that you want to cache the browseByUser and browseByTitle actions for 30 minutes:

Caches Example
component extends="Controller" {
   function config(){
     caches(actions="browseByUser,browseByTitle", time=30);
   function browseByUser(){
   function browseByTitle(){

As you can see, the caches() function call goes inside the config() function at the top of your controller file and accepts a list of action names and the number of minutes the actions should be cached for.

So what happens when users request the browseByUser page?

When CFWheels receives the first request for this page, it will handle everything as it normally would, with the exception that it also adds a copy of the resulting HTML to the cache before ending the processing.

CFWheels creates an internal key for use in the cache as well. This key is created from the controller, action, key, and params variables. This means, for example, that paginated pages are all stored individually in the cache (because the URL variable for the page to display would be different on each request).

When the second user requests the same page, CFWheels will serve the HTML directly from the cache.

All subsequent requests now get the cached page until it expires.

But there are 2 exceptions to this (which you can make good use of in your code to have the cache re-created at the right times). If the request is a post request (normally coming from a form submission) or if the Flash (you can read everything about the Flash in the Using the Flash chapter) is not empty, then the cache won't be used. Instead, a new fresh page will be created.

One way to use this feature is to submit your forms to the same page to have it re-created or redirect to the cached page with a message in the Flash.

Here is some code that shows this technique with using the Flash to expire the cache. (Imagine that the showArticlepage is cached and a user is adding a new comment to it.)

Expire with Flash
flashInsert(message="Your comment was added");
redirectTo(action="showArticle", key=params.key);

Note that by default, any filters set for the action are being run as normal. This means that if you do authentication in the filter (which is a common technique for sites with content where you have to login first to see it), you can still cache those pages safely using the caches() function.

However, to achieve the fastest possible cache, you can override this default and tell CFWheels to cache the HTML and serve that exactly as it is to all subsequent requests without running any filters. To do this, set the static argument on caches() to true. This will cache your content using the cfcache tag behind the scenes. This means that the CFWheels framework won't even get involved with the subsequent requests until they expire from the cache again (please note that application events like onSessionStart, onRequestStart, etc. will run though).

Page Caching

This code specifies that you want to cache the view page for the browseByUser action for 1 hour:

browseByUser caches
component extends="Controller" {
   function browseByUser(){
   function browseByTitle(){

The difference between action caching and page caching is that page caching will run the action and then only cache the view page itself. Action caching, as explained above, does not run the action code at all (but it does run filters and verifications).

Partial Caching

When your site contains personalized information (maybe some text specifying who you are logged in as, a list of items in your shopping cart, etc.), then action caching is not an option, and you need to cache at a lower level. This is where being able to cache only specific parts of pages comes in handy.

In CFWheels, this is done by using the cache argument in a call to includePartial() or renderPartial(). You can pass in cache=true or cache=x where x is the number of minutes you want to cache the partial for.

If you just pass in true, the default cache expiration time will be used.

So, for example, if you have an e-commerce site that lists products with a shopping cart in the sidebar, then you'd create a partial for the list of products and cache only that.

Example code:

#includePartial(partial="listing", cache=true)#

Behind the scenes CFWheels creates the cache key based on the name of the partial plus all of the arguments passed in to it. This means that if you pass in a userId variable for example, they will be cached separately.

You can also use this to your advantage when it comes to expiring cached content. You could, for example, update an updatedAt property on a user object and pass that in to includePartial. As soon as it changes, CFWheels will recreate the cached content (since the cache key is now different).

Query Caching

You can cache result sets returned by your queries too. As a ColdFusion developer, this probably won't be new to you because you've always been able to use the cachedwithin attribute in the <cfquery> tag. The query caching in CFWheels is very similar to this.

You can use query caching on all finder methods, and it looks like this:

users = model("user").findAll(where="name LIKE 'a%'", cache=10);

So there you have it: 4 easy ways to speed up your website!

Automatic Caching of Identical Queries

When working with objects in CFWheels, you'll likely find yourself using all of the convenient association functions CFWheels makes available to you.

For example, if you have set up a belongsTo association from article to author, then you will likely write a lot of calls. In this case, CFWheels is smart enough to only call the database once per request if the queries are identical. So don't worry about adding performance hits when making multiple calls like that in your code.

You can turn off this functionality either by using the reload argument to findAll() (or any of the dynamic methods that end up calling findAll() behind the scenes) or globally by adding set(cacheQueriesDuringRequest=false) to your configuration files.

The caching of these queries are stored on a per-model basis and CFWheels will conveniently clear the cache for a model whenever anything changes in the database for a model (e.g. you call something that creates, updates or deletes records).

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