Branchcache is one of those things – that can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how your network is setup.
Supported by Windows 7/Windows 8 & Server 2008 R2/Server 2012 – Branchcache is one of those technologies that I believe should be setup as default from the start – especially in larger organisations or enterprises.
First off – Branchcache is a method of “transparent caching” popular files from a network share to a more locally centralized – to the requesting computer – without increasing network bandwidth for a file that continuously gets pulled from a fileserver.
Branchcache hosted is a method of actually having a Branchcache server – on an actual physical remote site away from the main fileserver.
Say you request a file “Untitled.docx” from the fileserver (at the main location – which may be on the opposite side of the country from your location) – however some of your colleagues also have requested the same file. The hosted Branchcache server that is usually located closer to your physical location then the main fileserver – holds a “cached” copy which your computer will grab first. If no one had requested the “Untitled.docx” previously your Windows workstation will then retrieve the file from the main fileserver and the Branchcache server will then host the file for an amount of time – specified by your systems administrator – this allows faster read times on the files you are commonly working on and reduces overall network latency.
Branchcache Distribution is a method in which there is no local branchcache server available. This method is commonly used for smaller external remote sites – compared to the hosted method which requires a server setup. Through the use of the Local Group Policy distributed branchcache allows you to retrieve commonly used documents from other branchcache supported Windows workstations without the use of a dedicated server.
The files get “cached” onto the local workstations – allowing any supported Branchcache workstation to pick up the cached files without having to download the files from the network fileserver – reducing the continuous pull from the network fileserver and allowing for faster start – this method however is not recommended in a highly secure environment as files are stored on the local workstations.
Note: Both methods do a file check to make sure the file version you are opening – is the most up to date. If the file you are opening is out of date – to the one stored on the fileserver then Branchcache will automatically run the latest version and update it’s cache.