The following are answers to common questions in the Microsoft FrontPage Client Newsgroup:
Understanding Web Performance and Bandwidth
No one wants to wait around for a Web page that loads slowly, or fails to load completely. If your site does not respond quickly, you are likely to lose visitors to more responsive sites. Performance is key to the success of a site.
There are many factors that influence performance on the World Wide Web, but due to the cooperative nature of the Internet, most of them are not in any single entitys control. You can, however, stack the deck in your favor by designing your pages carefully, and by choosing your Web presence provider wisely. Here is how to ensure that your pages have the best chance of loading quickly on a consistent basis:
The Client Side
There are two halves to the performance equation: the client side and the server side. The client side consists of the end users computer, modem, Web browser and connection to the Internet. You cant influence the quality and speed of the users Internet connection, but you can lower the time that it takes for your pages to load. Spend a little time thinking about your page layout, and ask these questions:
The Server Side
The server side consists of the hardware, software and Internet connection of the machine serving your site. You can exercise a great deal of control over this aspect of performanceby choosing a good Web presence provider. It is important to consider many points when evaluating a Web hosting service.
The speed of their Internet connection. The size of the average Web page continues to increase. Large graphics and multimedia files can quickly saturate an Internet link, so it is very important that your provider have a sufficiently large pipe to the net. The minimum size connection to consider would be a T1 line (1.544 Mb/s), but this does not give your provider much room to grow. Keep in mind that its not just your site that is being hosted, but many others as well. It is not difficult for a single "popular" site to overwhelm the capabilities of a T1. Depending on the providers size, a better choice would be to find one with a T3 line (44.736 Mb/s). This will ensure that they will not be running out of bandwidth at peak traffic times.
The underlying transport of the connection. Setting up an Internet link can be a very expensive proposition. Web presence providers often cut corners and use an inexpensive frame relay network, or other public type of network, for their "local-loop". This means that your data is sharing communications lines with many other users before it ever gets to the Internet. It is not unlikely to experience packet loss due to this type of connection. Make sure that your provider is connected to the net via a dedicated circuit for their local loop.
Number of hops to the backbone. Traffic on the Internet consists of packets being transmitted from one router to the next before eventually reaching its destination. It is not unusual for a packet to be handled by 20 or more routers before it ends up where it is destined. Each hand-off from one router to another is called a "hop" and it has a performance cost. To reduce the number of hops choose a provider that is as close as possible to the backbone (the highest bandwidth routes that carry most of the Internets traffic). Providers directly connected (1 hop) to the backbone typically outperform those who are connected further down stream (multiple hops). Be sure to ask exactly how many hops away from the backbone your provider is connected. You could also determine this yourself by using a "traceroute" program.
The speed and size of their Web servers. What type of hardware is your site being served from? The more CPU power dedicated to handling server requests, the better. High end servers running UNIX are usually the performance leaders. For instance, Netscape Communications Corporation uses Silicon Graphics servers running IRIX (a version of UNIX) to host their own Web sites. This configuration is extremely stable, and reliably handles millions of hits a day while maintaining high performance.
Multiple diverse connections. Internet traffic can take many different paths to reach a given destination. Some paths are faster or more direct than others. Having multiple, diverse connections to the Internet, and running full BGP4 (define this BGP stands for Border Gateway Protocol. It is the language that Internet routers speak to one another to communicate routing information.) routing over these connections, means your data has more paths to choose from, and better odds of finding a faster route. Another benefit of having multiple diverse connections is that your packets can have a better chance of bypassing backbone "peering points". Peering points are where traffic from the large backbone providers get transferred from one network to another. Like an interchange between large interstate highways, traffic often slows to a crawl. A big problem with the Internet today is the saturation of these peering points. If your data has more choices and can avoid these points, it will arrive more quickly and more reliably.
The performance equation has two halves: the client side and the server side. While most of the client side is out of your control, you can influence client side performance through careful design of your pages. The server side is very much under your control: choose a Web presence provider that is connected close to the backbone, uses high performance servers, and has multiple, high-speed connections to the Internet. It can mean the difference between having a fast, popular site and a slow, frustrating one.