Jul 5, 2024

Backend Development Efficiency: The Critical Role of Caching

Zziwa Raymond
7 minutes

Undoubtedly, many of us have experienced the frustration of completing a project only to find that our application could be better in fetching data from the backend. This not only hampers our application’s efficiency, but also drives users away, forcing them to seek alternatives. Consequently, a brilliant application idea can become unreliable and unusable. But there is a solution to address these challenges.

Caching is the key to enhancing application performance. When implemented effectively, it can significantly elevate the user experience by streamlining performance. Let’s explore the fundamentals of caching.

In essence, caching involves temporarily storing data retrieved from the database. When subsequent requests for the same data occur, rather than waiting for the API to retrieve it again, the backend application seamlessly delivers the cached data.

I’ll illustrate this concept using a comprehensive stack comprising Nest.js, Redis, Redis-commander, npm, Docker and Postman. Nest.js, a robust backend framework built on Node.js and leveraging TypeScript, will serve as our foundation. Redis, renowned for its high-speed performance, will act as our cache database, while npm facilitates package management. Docker will enable us to containerize the Redis database, enhancing scalability and deployment efficiency. Additionally, Redis-commander will provide a user-friendly interface for monitoring our cache database. Lastly, Postman, a versatile tool for API testing and request handling, will play a pivotal role.

First, open the terminal and use the Nest CLI to create a new Nest.js application. Once the application has been successfully scaffolded, navigate to the project folder and open it using VS Code or any other preferred code editor.

1npm install -g @nestjs/cli //command to install the nest-cli
2nest new caching-demo //command to scaffold my nestjs application
3cd caching-demo //navigate to the root folder of the application
4code . //open the application directory with vs code
5npm run start:dev //start the application

Next, install a few packages that will assist us in achieving our objective. It’s important to note that we won’t be using in-memory caching, a technique offered by many backend frameworks. While in-memory caching has its advantages, such as speed, it also has notable downsides. The most significant one is that data is stored in RAM, which may not be ideal, especially if your server or hosting machine has limited resources.

In the code editor, we’ll open a new terminal and install dependencies by running the following commands.

1npm install @nestjs/cache-manager cache-manager //command to install the cache-manager
2npm install -D @types/cache-manager //command to install cache-manager types so as typescript doesnt throw errors as we work through our code
3npm install cache-manager-redis-yet //command to install the redis-store

To begin, we’ll navigate to the src folder and open the app.module.ts file, then import and register the CacheModule. Additionally, we’ll configure the module by passing an object of parameters. These parameters will enable our application to connect with the Redis database, which we’ll Dockerize later.

As evident in the app.module.ts file, the CacheModule has been successfully imported and registered. Furthermore, we’ve initialized an object of parameters to configure our cache-store. These parameters include:

  • store: Defines the cache store to be used.
  • host: Specifies the server where our Redis database will be running.
  • port: Indicates the port through which Redis will be accessed.
  • username and password: Left empty for our purposes.
  • Other notable properties, such as ttl (time to live), which determines the duration data is cached in the database, may be added if required. However, for the scope of this article, we won’t include it as it’s not critical to our demonstration


To interact with the cache database, we need to inject the CACHE_MANAGERinstance into our controller. This instance serves as the intermediary for communication between our application controller and the cache database, hence the need to perform the check at the controller level. If the data already exists in the cache database, the service is not involved in the process.

Following the injection of the cache manager, we’ve defined a function named getSampleData within the controller. This function is responsible for returning an object containing properties such as id (string), items (array of numbers) and users (array of strings). Internally, this function calls another method, getSampleData,which resides within the AppService class defined in the app.service.ts file.

Additionally, we’ve injected the AppService into the controller, granting access to its members. The route for our controller has been configured to /api/test/cache, serving as the endpoint for testing our caching configuration.

Now, let’s dive into the exciting part! The cache_manager offers a variety of methods, but we’ll focus on four or five of them.

First, we have the get(key) method, which accepts a key as input, retrieves the corresponding data from the cache database and returns it.

Next up is the set(key, value) method. Unlike get, this method takes both a key and a value as parameters and stores them in the cache database.

Moving on, we have the del(key) method. When invoked, this function deletes the data associated with the specified key from the cache database.

Lastly, let’s explore the reset() method. This powerful function wipes the entire cache database clean, leaving it empty and ready for new data.

With these methods at our disposal, we’re equipped to effectively manage our cache database and optimize our application’s performance. Armed with the understanding of the aforementioned functions, let’s enhance our getSampleData function within the controller. When a request is received, the controller will first check the cache database. If cached data exists, the controller will promptly return it to the user, without the need to invoke the service. However, if no cached data is found, the controller will call the service to fetch the data. Once the data is retrieved, it will be cached for future requests before being returned to the user. This approach optimizes performance by minimizing unnecessary calls to the service.

Here’s a refined explanation of the changes made to our controller:

We’ve transformed the getSampleData function into an asynchronous function, indicating that it returns a promise. Consequently, the function’s return type has been updated to a promise that resolves to an object with predefined properties.

Upon receiving a request, the controller first checks if there is cached data corresponding to the key ‘UD’. If such data exists (checked with if (cachedData)), it is returned to the user as a JSON response.

In the event that no cached data is found, the controller proceeds to call the getSampleData method of the AppService. Upon retrieval of the data, it is converted to a string and stored in the cache database with the key ‘UD’ using this.cacheManager.set('UD', JSON.stringify(fetchedSampleData)). Subsequently, the data is returned to the user.

To ensure seamless execution, the getSampleData function in the app.service.ts module has also been modified to be asynchronous. This enables the use of the await keyword when invoking the function in the controller, preventing any issues with undefined values.

The next step involves creating a docker-compose.yml file. This file will facilitate the pulling of Redis and Redis-commander images, enabling us to run the containers effortlessly. With Docker Compose, we’ll define the services required for our project, including Redis for our cache database and Redis-commander for a user-friendly interface. Once configured, Docker Compose will orchestrate the setup, ensuring the containers are up and running seamlessly.

To provide a concise overview, the version directive, set to ‘3.8’, denotes the version of the Docker Compose file format in use. Subsequently, we define the services to be executed, namely Redis and Redis-commander. Each service is associated with an image that Docker will retrieve to instantiate the respective containers.

Regarding the Ports configuration, it specifies the ports on which the containers will operate. These ports are then mapped to enable external access.

To elaborate on specific variables within the redis-commander service, the environment variable aids in specifying the location of Redis for the Redis-commander to connect to. Additionally, the container_name attribute designates the name of the container, while hostname denotes the hostname assigned to the container. Although container name and hostname are somewhat self-explanatory, they are essential components of container management. Now, we return to the terminal to execute the Docker Compose file, initiating the build and startup processes for our services. Before running the command below, please ensure that you have Docker Desktop installed on your system. If not, you can download it from the official Docker website. Otherwise, attempting to execute the command without Docker Desktop installed will result in an error.

1docker-compose up --build //command to build and start our redis and redis-commander containers

With both containers running smoothly and without errors, we can proceed to open Postman. From there, we’ll commence sending requests to witness caching in action firsthand. Additionally, we’ll navigate to to access the Redis-commander interface. This interface will allow us to monitor and manage the contents of our Redis database, providing valuable insights into its operations.

Certainly, achieving a response time of 52 milliseconds for an API is quite satisfactory. Upon verifying our Redis-commander, we can confirm the successful preservation of our data under the “UD” key. Now, let’s explore the prowess of caching by initiating another request. This will enable us to directly witness how caching optimizes response times, thereby enhancing the overall efficiency of our application.

And there you have it! Thanks to the magic of caching, our API response time has plummeted to a mere 9ms. That’s not even half the time it took during the initial request to return a response. This underscores the indispensable role caching plays in backend development.

Caching isn’t just a technique; it’s a game-changer. It dramatically enhances performance, elevates user experience and optimizes resource utilization. By intelligently storing frequently accessed data, caching minimizes redundant computations and database queries, resulting in lightning-fast responses and smoother user interactions.

In the dynamic world of web development, where speed is paramount and user expectations are ever-increasing, caching emerges as a beacon of efficiency. In conclusion, our journey through the realm of caching has illuminated its transformative power in optimizing back end performance. From significantly reducing API response times to enhancing overall user experience, caching emerges as a cornerstone technique in modern web development.

By intelligently storing and retrieving data, caching minimizes computational overhead and database load, resulting in faster and more responsive applications. Through our exploration, we’ve witnessed firsthand how caching can revolutionize application performance, ensuring smoother user interactions and heightened efficiency.

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of web development, it’s clear that caching remains a vital tool in our arsenal. Its ability to streamline operations, boost scalability and elevate application reliability underscores its status as a foundational pillar of backend architecture.

In our pursuit of excellence, let’s embrace caching as a fundamental principle, harnessing its capabilities to craft exceptional digital experiences that leave a lasting impression on users. Together, let’s continue to unlock the full potential of caching and propel our applications to new heights of performance and innovation.

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About the author

Zziwa Raymond

Zziwa Raymond is a full-stack engineer and a member of the Andela Talent Network, a private global marketplace for digital talent. Specializing in Next.js, React, JavaScript, TypeScript, NestJs and others, he has developed a deep holistic understanding of both frontend and backend technologies. Zziwa loves to tackle diverse and difficult technology challenges, as they are a driving force in his continuous learning.

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