Improving the performance of Drupal's cron by using the Elysia cron module
One great feature that Drupal has is the ability to make modules run certain tasks, often heavy ones, in the background at preset intervals. This can be achieved by a module implementing hook_cron.
Core uses this feature to index new content for the search module, ping module to notify remote sites of new content, fetch new release information from drupal.org, poll other sites for RSS feeds, and more.
Various contributed modules use this for various purposes, such as mailing out newsletters, cleaning up logs, synchronizing content with other servers/sites, and much more ...