Why the Internet is often to blame for performance issues

But don't worry, there's something you can do about it.

Credit: Wikipedia CC 4.0

A lot happens in the seconds between the click of a link in a web browser and the opening of a new page on your computer screen. While it seems like a simple process from the user perspective, there's actually a complex system under the hood making this "automatic" action a reality.

What's important is that the process happens as quickly as possible—almost instantaneously in a perfect world. But for a site to perform well, everything has to go right from that initial click. If not, site visitors (and their wallets) go elsewhere. In fact, if users notice a lag of as little as one tenth of a second, many will abandon your site in the blink of an eye (roughly 400 milliseconds).

A site can be slow for many reasons, and most consumers—and companies, for that matter—don't know just how much can go wrong, much less where the challenges occur or why these issues cause Web delays.

A common culprit is poorly designed web applications not built for speed or functionality. More often, though, the biggest factor in web performance isn't what happens on the web server; it's what happens in the network.

Many issues can slow traffic from web server to browser and have a negative impact on user experience. Before any content crosses a network, a browser has to resolve a site's name to an IP address using the Domain Name System (DNS). There's nothing for a user to see during DNS resolution, so the faster a site's name resolves, the sooner the browser can connect to the server, start loading the page and give some feedback. Also, the speed of light in fiber-optic cable is only so fast. That means the distance between the site's servers and the site's typical users affects the site's performance. This physical distance is a hard limit on a site's maximum performance.

The route traffic takes among different network providers also affects performance. If, say, there is congestion in the path—such as too much traffic overwhelming a link or an interconnection point—traffic will slow down. But sometimes these traffic issues are less obvious. A cable cut can cause a telecommunications provider to have to re-route traffic, causing latency to increase. Or competing ISPs in a particular market might not exchange traffic and force their respective customers to take a longer, non-optimal route through a third network in order to communicate.

Speed is no longer a convenience, it is a necessity to ensuring business success. But the challenges I've outlined above are still issues that I see companies face every day. Internet performance is understanding all the ways that the network affects how a web site performs and knowing how to improve efficiencies. In this blog, I'll draw on my 25 years of experience working on the Internet and with DNS, as well as my experience as CTO of Internet Performance company Dyn, to write about the ins, outs, do's and don'ts of Internet performance.

There's a lot going on between your web browser and your web server—and you won't know what's there unless you know what to look for.

How can you monitor what's happening on the network? How can you control the customer experience your site visitors enjoy, ensuring that it is consistent and convenient? And how do you optimize your Internet Performance so you're getting the most from your efforts? Once you know what's happening you can begin maximizing your Web presence, reaching more potential customers and making sure that every site visitor is a happy site visitor. I'd like to show you what to look for and how to make sure your Internet performance is as fast, reliable, and scalable as possible.

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