ArcGIS software refers to caches in a number of ways, and you will encounter a reference to more than one of these as you use ArcGIS. This can be confusing to understand. Which cache is which? Which is the right one for you to use, and when should you consider using each?
This topic helps to explain three of the common cache types and will point you to topics for further reading and information.
The ArcMap feature cache
This feature cache is used to improve performance for multiple users who access and work with ArcMap documents and data across a local area network (LAN) in their organization. The goal of the feature cache is to temporarily store features and attribute records in memory on your computer for an ArcMap session. The ArcMap feature cache works well when you are focused on work tasks performed within a particular map extent.
Cached map services delivered using ArcGIS Server
A cached map service is a collection of prerendered map tiles that can be used for display of a map service. This allows a map service to quickly display maps because the map image does not have to be rendered on the fly. Each map image is computed only once when the map cache is created.
This means that each time the user requests a map from ArcGIS Server, the map tiles are retrieved from the map cache for the requested map extent and resolution.
A cached map service can support multiscale maps. It does this by creating a multiscale image map for your map at a specified series of map scales. You choose the map scales at which your feature cache will be computed—say at map scales of 1:250,000, 1:100,000, 1:60,000, 1:30,000, 1:10,000, and 1:5,000. Frequently, users will choose to use a standard cache tiling scheme such as the Web Mercator cache schema used in Google Maps, Bing Maps, and at ArcGIS Online.
Some cached map services use on-the-fly caching. In these cases, not all map tiles are precomputed. If the requested map tiles do not exist, the map image will be computed automatically.
The use of cached map services means that ArcGIS map services can scale to very large numbers of users and maps served per hour. For example, ArcGIS Online serves millions of maps a day with ArcGIS Server using a surprisingly small deployment of GIS servers.
The display cache
The display cache is a local disk cache on your computer that stores data for basemap layers, tiled images from cached map services from ArcGIS Server, tiled images from other Internet map services, and the ArcGIS Globe cache. ArcGIS Desktop uses this display cache to help manage and improve display performance in ArcMap and ArcGlobe.