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Networking tips

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Networking tips

Post by Admin on Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:27 am

Although there is no way to actually make your true Internet speed faster, here are some tips for home and corporate users that can make better use of the bandwidth you have, thus providing the illusion of a faster pipe.


1) Caching — How  does it work and is it a good idea?



Offered by various vendors and built into Internet Explorer, caching can be very effective in many situations. Caching servers have built-in intelligence to store the most recently and most frequently requested information, thus preventing future requests from traversing a WAN/Internet link unnecessarily.


Many web servers keep a time stamp of their last update to data, and browsers such as the popular Internet Explorer will check the time stamp on the host server. If the page time stamp has not changed since the last time you accessed the page, IE will grab it and present a local stored copy of the Web page (from the last time you accessed the page), saving the time it would take to load the page from across the Internet.


So what is the downside of caching?


There are two main issues that can arise with caching:


a) Keeping the cache current. If you access a cache page that is not current then you are at risk of getting old and incorrect information. Some things you may never want to be cached, for example the results of a transactional database query. It’s not that these problems are insurmountable, but there is always the risk that the data in cache will not be synchronized with changes. I personally have been mislead by old data from my cache on several occasions.


b) Volume. There are some 100 million Web sites out on the Internet. Each site contains upwards of several megabytes of public information. The amount of data is staggering and even the smartest caching scheme cannot account for the variation in usage patterns among users and the likelihood they will hit an uncached page.


For information on turning off caching, click here.


2) Protocol Spoofing



Note:  This method is applied to Legacy Data base servers doing operations over a WAN. Skip this tip if you are a home user.


Historically, there are client server applications that were developed for an internal LAN. Many of these applications are considered chatty. For example, to complete a transaction between a client and server, tens of messages may be transmitted when perhaps one or two would suffice. Everything was fine until companies, for logistical and other reasons, extended their LANs across the globe using WAN links to tie different locations together.


To get a better visual on what goes on in a chatty application, perhaps an analogy will help.  It’s like  sending family members your summer vacation pictures, and, for some insane reason, putting each picture in a separate envelope and mailing them individually on the same mail run. Obviously, this would be extremely inefficient, as chatty applications can be.


What protocol spoofing accomplishes is to fake out the client or server side of the transaction and then send a more compact version of the transaction over the Internet, i.e. put all the pictures in one envelope and send it on your behalf, thus saving you postage.


You might ask why not just improve the inefficiencies in these chatty applications rather than write software to deal with the problem? Good question, but that would be the subject of a totally different article on how IT organizations must evolve with legacy technology, which is beyond the scale of the present article.



3) Requesting text only from your browser


If you are stuck with a dial up or slower broadband connection, your  browser likely has an  option to load text only. If you are a power user that’s gaming or watching Youtube, text only will obviously have no effect on these activities, but it will speed up general browsing and e-mail.  Most web pages are loaded with graphics which take up the bulk of the load time, so switching to text only will eliminate the graphics and save you quite a bit of time.


4) Install a bandwidth controller to make sure no single connection dominates your bandwidth.



Everything you do on your Internet creates a connection from your inside your network to the Internet, and all these connections compete for the limited amount of bandwidth your ISP provides.


Your router ( cable modem) connection  to the Internet provides first come first serve service to all the applications trying to access the Internet. To make matters worse, the heavier users , the ones with the larger persistent downloads, tend to get more than their fair share of router cycles.  Large downloads are like the school yard bully, they tend to butt in line, and not play fair.


Read the full article.


5) Turn off the other computers in the house


Many times, even during the day when the kids are off to school, I’ll be using my Skype phone and the connection will break up.  I have no idea what exactly the kids’ computers are doing, but if I log them off the Internet, things get better with the Skype call every time. In a sense, it’s a competition for limited bandwidth resources, so, decreasing the competition will usually boost your computer’s performance.



6) Kill background tasks on your computer


You should also try to turn off any Bittorrent or background tasks on your computer if having trouble while trying to watch a video or make a VOIP call. Use your task bar to see what applications are running and kill the ones you don’t want. Although this is a bit drastic, you may just find that it makes a difference. You’d be surprised what’s running on your computer without you even knowing it (or wanting it).


For you gamers out there this also means turning off the audio component on your games if you do not need it for collaboration. Although the audio stream


7) Test your Internet speed


One of the most common issues with slow internet service is that your provider is not giving you what they have advertised. Here is a link to our article on testing your Internet speed, which is a good place to start.


Again, while there is no way to increase your true Internet speed without upgrading your service, these seven tips can improve performance and help get better results from the bandwidth you already have. You’re paying for it, so you might as well make sure it’s being used as effectively as possible.


Note: Comcast has adopted a 15 minute Penalty box in some markets. Your initial speed tests will likely show no degradation but if you persist at watching high definition video for more than 15 minutes you may get put into their Penalty box.  This practice helps preserve a limited resource in some crowded markets we note it here because have heard reports of people happily watching You-Tube videos only to have service degrade.



Related Articles The real meaning of Comcast generosity.


Cool Make sure you are not accidentally connected to a weak access point signal


There are several ways an access point can slow down your connection a bit.


If the signal between you and the access point is weak, the access point will automatically downgrade its service to a slower speed. This happens to me all the time. My access point goes on the blink (needs to be re-booted) and my computer connects to the neighbor’s with a weaker signal. The speed of my connection on the weaker signaled AP is quite variable.  So, if you are on wireless in a densely populated area, check to make sure what signal you are connected  to.



9) Deploy a fairness device to smooth out those rough patches during contentious busy hours


Yes, this is the NetEqualizer news blog, but with all bias aside, these things work great. If you are in an office sharing an Internet feed with various users, the NetEqualizer will keep aggressive bandwidth users from crowding others out. No, it cannot create additional bandwidth on your pipe, but it will eliminate the gridlock caused  by your colleague  in the next cubicle  downloading a Microsoft service pack.


Yes, there are other  devices on the market (like your fancy router), but the NetEqualizer was specifically designed for that mission.



10) Bonus tip kill your virus protection softare


With recent out break of the H1N1 virus it reminded me of  how sometimes the symptoms and carnage from a vaccine are worse than the disease it purports to cure. Well the same holds true for your virus protection software. Yes viruses are real and can take down your computer, but so can a disk crash, which is also inevitable.  You must back up your critical data regularly. However that virus software seems to dominate more resources on my desktop than anything else , I no longer use anything and could not be happier. But be sure to use a reliable back up!


11) Setting a TOS bit to provide priority

A TOS bit, is a special bit, within an IP packet that directs routers to give preferential treatment to selected packets.  This sounds great , just set a bit and move to the front of the line for faster service.  As always there are limitations



- How does one set a TOS bit?


It seems that only very special enterprise  applications , like VOIP pbx’s actually set and make use of TOS bits. Setting the actual bit is not all that difficult if you have an application that deals with the NetWork layer , but most commercial applications just send their data on to the host computers clearing house for data which in turn puts it into IP packets without a TOS bit set.  After searching around for a while, I just don’t see any literature on being able to set a TOS bit at the application level. For example there are a couple forums where people mention setting the TOS bit in SKYPE but nothing definitive on  how to do it.


- Who enforces the priority for TOS packets


This is a function of routers at the edge of your network , and all routers along the path to wherever the IP packet is going. Generally this limits the effectiveness of using a TOS bit to networks that you control end to end. In other words a consumer using a public internet connection cannot rely on their provider to give any precedence to TOS bits, hence this feature is relegated to enterprise networks within an a business or institution.



-  Incoming traffic generally cannot be controlled.


The subject of when you can and can’t control a TOS does get a bit more involved. We have gone over in more detail in a separate  article.


12) Avoid Quota Penalties


Some providers are implementing Quota’s where they slow you down if you use too much data over a period of time.


If you know you have a large set of downloads to do, for example synching your device with Itunes Cloud, go to a library and use their free service. Or if you are truly without morals logon to your neighbors wireless network and do your synch.



14) Application shaping


Note: Application shaping is appropriate for corporate IT administrators and is generally not a practical solution for a home user. Makers of application shapers include Packeteer and Allot, products that are typically out of the price range for many smaller networks and home users.


One of the most popular and intuitive forms of optimizing bandwidth is a method called “application shaping,” with aliases of “traffic shaping”, “bandwidth control”, and perhaps a few others thrown in for good measure. For the IT manager that is held accountable for everything that can and will go wrong on a network, or the CIO that needs to manage network usage policies, this is a dream come true. If you can divvy up portions of your WAN/Internet link to various applications, then you can take control of your network and ensure that important traffic has sufficient bandwidth.


At the center of application shaping is the ability to identify traffic by type.  For example, identifying between Citrix traffic, streaming audio, Kazaa peer-to-peer, or something else. However, this approach is not without its drawbacks.


Many applications are expected to use Internet ports when communicating across the Web. An Internet port is part of an Internet address, and many firewall products can easily identify ports and block or limit them. For example, the “FTP” application commonly used for downloading files uses the well known “port 21″. The fallacy with this scheme, as many operators soon find out, is that there are many applications that do not consistently use a fixed port for communication. Many application writers have no desire to be easily classified. In fact, they don’t want IT personnel to block them at all, so they deliberately design applications to not conform to any formal port assignment scheme. For this reason, any product that aims to block or alter application flows by port should be avoided if your primary mission is to control applications by type.


So, if standard firewalls are inadequate at blocking applications by port, what can help?


As you are likely aware, all traffic on the Internet travels around in what is called an IP packet. An IP packet can very simply be thought of as a string of characters moving from Computer A to Computer B. The string of characters is called the “payload,” much like the freight inside a railroad car. On the outside of this payload, or data, is the address where it is being sent. These two elements, the address and the payload, comprise the complete IP packet.



In the case of different applications on the Internet, we would expect to see different kinds of payloads. For example, let’s take the example of a skyscraper being transported from New York to Los Angeles. How could this be done using a freight train? Common sense suggests that one would disassemble the office tower, stuff it into as many freight cars as it takes to transport it, and then when the train arrived in Los Angeles hopefully the workers on the other end would have the instructions on how to reassemble the tower.


Well, this analogy works with almost anything that is sent across the Internet, only the payload is some form of data, not a physical hunk of bricks, metal and wires. If we were sending a Word document as an e-mail attachment, guess what, the contents of the document would be disassembled into a bunch of IP packets and sent to the receiving e-mail client where it would be re-assembled. If I looked at the payload of each Internet packet in transit, I could actually see snippets of the document in each packet and could quite easily read the words as they went by.


At the heart of all current application shaping products is special software that examines the content of Internet packets, and through various pattern matching techniques, determines what type of application a particular flow is. Once a flow is determined, then the application shaping tool can enforce the operators policies on that flow. Some examples of policy are:


Limit AIM messenger traffic to 100kbs

Reserve 500kbs for Shoretell voice traffic


The list of rules you can apply to traffic types and flow is unlimited. However, there are downsides to application shaping of which you should be aware. Here are a few:



  • The number of applications on the Internet is a moving target. The best application shaping tools do a very good job of identifying several thousand of them, and yet there will always be some traffic that is unknown (estimated at 10 percent by experts from the leading manufacturers). The unknown traffic is lumped into the unknown classification and an operator must make a blanket decision on how to shape this class. Is it important? Is it not? Suppose the important traffic was streaming audio for a Web cast and is not classified. Well, you get the picture. Although theory behind application shaping by type is a noble one, the cost for a company to stay up to date is large and there are cracks.

  • Even if the application spectrum could be completely classified, the spectrum of applications constantly changes. You must keep licenses current to ensure you have the latest in detection capabilities. And even then it can be quite a task to constantly analyze and change the mix of policies on your network. As bandwidth costs lessen, how much human time should be spent divvying up and creating ever more complex policies to optimize your WAN traffic?


  • Techniques used in application shaping have become controversial on public networks, with privacy issues often conflicting with attempts to ensure network quality.


15) By pass that local consumer reseller


This option might be a little bit out of the price range of the average consumer, and it may not be practical logistically but if you like to do things out of the box, you don’t have to buy Internet service from your local cable operator or phone company, especially if you are in most metro areas.  Many customers we know have actually gone directly to a tier 1 point of presence ( back bone provider) and put in a radio back haul direct to the source.  There are numerous companies that can set you up with a 40 to 60  megabit link no gimmicks .



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Re: Networking tips

Post by Tim_VO on Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:38 pm

Nice read, keep it up! Smile

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