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What is content caching and how to configure it using the MDM solution?

What is content caching and how to configure it using the MDM solution?

Mosyle Team
written by Mosyle Team

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Do you want to speed up downloading of software distributed by Apple as well as iCloud content in your school or district? Enabling content caching can be a good strategy if you have a Mac device that can be used as a local server. Read on to understand if it's a good option for your school environment and check out great tips to properly set up the content caching.

What is content caching?

Content caching consists of setting up a Mac device so it works as a local server - the macOS device will keep a copy of all content you want and the local networked devices can download them without going out over the Internet.

The content caching was previously found in the macOS Server, now being available in Mac devices with High Sierra or later. It makes it a lot easier to configure content caching and saving network bandwidth in your school. If you are looking to improve your Network Infrastructure to optimize device management in your school or district, take a look at our guide, finding great tips to make your Network works seamlessly with the MDM solution.

Content caching can be used on networks with a NAT environment for the content cache and devices, or on networks with publicly routable IP addresses. The iOS devices with iOS 7 or later, as well as OS X 10.8.2 or later, are able to automatically connect a nearby content cache without any configuration. All you need to do is configure the Mac device that will cache content - so continue to read the article to get the steps.

How does content caching work?

The image below represents how the content caching on Mac works. The Mac that works as the local server caches all content, making the content available to the local networked devices - what we can call “clients”.

Content Caching

One example, so you can understand the process better - When one of the local networked devices downloads a macOS update, the content cache saves a copy of the update. When the next client connects to the App Store to download the update, it will be copied from the content cache - not from the App Store. As the local network is usually faster, the second local networked device will download the update much faster, saving network bandwidth as well.

How to setup content caching using the MDM solution

If you are using Mosyle Manager as your mobile device management for school, you are able to configure the content caching on each of the macOS devices that will work as your local server.

You can select to force the Content Caching, which means that the content caching service will be automatically activated when possible. It will also prevent users from disabling the content caching service.

It’s possible to select the type(s) of content to cache using this service. If you select only shared content, it will include apps and software updates. By choosing to cache only iCloud content, photos and documents will be cached - you are able to select both types.

An essential configuration is to limit the Maximum number of GB that will be used for the content cache of the macOS devices. It’s highly recommended to set up this option, making sure your Mac device will be up and running.

There are a couple of optional settings that can support your specific needs when caching content in your school or district. The default location for cached content on Mac devices is the boot volume, but you are able to select an alternate location, so you can change the Data Path when creating this management profile.

Make sure the folder includes the following path: /Library/Application Support/Apple/AssetCache/Data. If you do not include this in the folder, an error in the content cache might occur. Heads up: if you are editing the profile since changing this setting will not automatically move cached content from the old to the new location. Only the new content will move.

If needed, it’s possible to select the TCP port on which the content caching service accepts requests for uploads or downloads. Remember to configure the Local Network so you can restrict the content caching to certain IP Addresses. It’s important to keep in mind your Network Infrastructure specificities.

Some tips and best practices

The connectivity and some hardware configurations can impact the content caching performance so it’s important to pay attention to some details.

It’s highly recommended that the content caching be configured on a Mac device that has a single wired Ethernet connection as its only connection to the network. It will elevate the performance of the content caching. If you use a Wi-Fi connection, it can reflect drastically in the content caching performance - and what you are looking for is optimizing the process.

When a large amount of local networked devices - such as your teachers and students iPads or Macs - are connecting the content cache at the same time, you can check the processor usage for the AssetCache process to make sure everything is running smoothly. Navigate to Activity Monitor on the Mac, go to View > All Processes and click CPU. If the processor usage is near the maximum many times, you can add additional content caches to distribute the request.

If students and teachers download a large amount of content from the content caching, make sure to set up the cache size limit high enough - if using Mosyle Manager, you can do it when creating the management profile, as we mentioned above.

There are some configurations you need to set up in order to optimize the content caching performance, such as specifying the TCP port for caching, managing the inter-site caching traffic, and blocking rogue cache registrations. It’s not recommended to use manual proxy settings as well as don’t proxy client request to content caches, be sure you allow all Apple push notifications.

Need help?

We hope these tips can help you configure content caching in your school or district, streamlining the workflows and optimizing your network! Share below your thoughts and comments!

Open your Mosyle Manager account and enjoy the help from our amazing Customer Success and Support team! They will support you along the way - from deploying your Apple devices to configuring the content caching.

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