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Application Support

The Difference Between Browser Cache, Cookies & Browser History

At Synergy Technology, we are constantly looking for ways to help our customers. This time, we thought it would be useful to take a look at the differences between your browser cache, your cookies and your browser history.

These terms can be confusing, but it’s important to learn what they mean to better understand your security and how you can stay safe online. Remember to contact our team if you need more information about any of the topics covered here.

What is the Browser Cache?

Have you ever visited any web sites and they take a couple of seconds to load, then revisited them on the same computer another time and the pages are displayed much quicker?

This is highly likely due to the cache (pronounced “cash”) that has been stored and used by your browser for faster access of that page or site. This is achieved by avoiding the necessity to load the page from the destination server again. Imagine a cut down template of the webpage which includes HTML, images and files being access locally – this will present a faster view of the page (providing it’s up to date).

Pros

  • Local cached web pages will reduce latency – Not having to reload the page again.
  • If you’re on a metered line, this will also reduce the network traffic as less bandwidth will be used by the client.
  • If you have forgotten the full path of a URL (web address) in its entirety but have visited it previously and know the start, then type this into your browser; you should see pages appear that you have visited.
  • If you have ever hit the back button on a website and the previous page you viewed appeared, that’s your web browser’s cache reloading the page.

Cons

  • If the web pages have been updated or changed significantly, then your browser cache for that site may not load as it’s stale. In other words, out of date.
  • Your company may require you to delete your web cache each time you log off the site, which then means more bandwidth is taken up trying to reload from the server.

What are Cookies?

Each time you visit a website, you should be notified that the website uses cookies and needs you to accept the notification. This notification was made compulsory as part of the introduction of the GDPR regulations. Sites have to disclose that they are using cookies, as these collect other pieces of information about you or your activities.

Imagine you want to visit an online website such as an e-commerce site that sells products and services, shopping, DIY products, and so on. To help tailor your visit in the future and to track what you are looking at, the site asks you for information and logs the pages you are viewing which are stored locally for faster access.

Pros

  • If you regularly visit a site, cookies can help by asking you to save your credentials which gives you a faster access next time.
  • If you are specifically interested in a certain brand, product or supplier, cookies can be used to narrow your search and provide you with offers related those criteria.
  • If you have ever used favourites, this is a way to access those sites quickly.

Cons

  • Your credentials will be stored in a file locally when accessing a website.
  • Your personal browsing history can be used by third parties over a certain period to market other products and services to you, therefore bombarding your email account.
  • Any personal data is a risk being stored on your computer. Without the correct protection products installed, this type of data could be viewed by unlawful parties.

What is the Browser’s History?

Pros

  • Again, like the browser cache, files are stored locally in a log which your computer can use track what pages have been visited.
  • If any pages are no longer available to you from the site, you can delete your history of that site or the entire log file.
  • Your browser can autocomplete the website you have visited for quicker access.

Cons

  • As mentioned, it keeps a log of your visited pages and therefore private searches.
  • If you click on malware or have a virus, hackers can view the log and find if sensitive sites have been visited, along with using the cache or cookies to obtain private data.
  • Deleting your history is a way to help minimise the risk. If done, remember: you won’t have a copy locally of previously visited site. Therefore, they will be lost if not saved in your favourites.

Better being safe than sorry! Always use best practices; set up your browser to delete your cache, cookies and history when existing a website. This means you will have to re-enter each time, but it also provides some level of security.

For more information about these topics, please contact Synergy Technology’s friendly team on 0345 456 0050 today.