Lots to think about when diagnosing a slow Internet

Occa­sion­ally I get a tech ques­tion in the inbox that is quite com­mon. So much so that it makes sense for me to put and answer the ques­tion here where more can read and bene­fit from it.  By the way, if you’ve got some­thing you’d like to ask, feel free to drop me a line through my con­tact me page.

So, the ques­tion deals with Inter­net speed, and this one is pretty com­plex because there are quite a num­ber of factors that con­trib­ute to the ‘per­ceived’ speed of the Inter­net on any giv­en com­puter:

Q:Hi, my laptop’s inter­net runs really slow.  I use fire­fox and inter­net explorer (they’re both updated). I have tried my laptop on quite a few dif­fer­ent inter­net con­nec­tions and have run mul­tiple vir­us and defrag tests with no prob­lems I have 24% free space on my hard drive.  My inter­net runs really laggy, and i want to sign up for a mobile / stick plan but if my com­puter can’t run fast there isn’t a point.  is there any­thing I can do to fix this?

Ok, there’s a lot in those few lines but not really enough to dia­gnose the prob­lem com­pletely.  Sadly there are a num­ber of things that could impact inter­net speed, includ­ing;

  • the sites you try to con­nect to,
  • oth­er run­ning applic­a­tions com­pet­ing for net­work or sys­tem resources,
  • vir­us / tro­jan infec­tion (though in this case the com­puter was scanned quite heav­ily),
  • the amount of RAM memory in the sys­tem,
  • the age and ver­sion of the oper­at­ing sys­tem in use and the age of the com­puter — this one is import­ant as a 6 year old com­puter try­ing to run a mod­ern oper­at­ing sys­tem may have issues as drivers are out­dated,
  • hard­ware no longer sup­por­ted, or it’s simply not cap­able of per­form­ing mod­ern multi-media tasks that didn’t exist when the com­puter was ori­gin­ally designed.

As you can see, there are a num­ber of poten­tial issues here, and all of them require more inform­a­tion. So, in this case my recom­mend­a­tion was to con­sult an expert — giv­ing them access to the machine so they can bring all their exper­i­ence to bear on the prob­lem.

Since at this point, we’re  not exper­i­en­cing prop­er inter­net speeds, call your inter­net ser­vice pro­vider, and dis­cuss the speed issue with them.  They’ll likely ask a num­ber of ques­tions and have a few tests and tweaks you can per­form while on the phone.

Then, if there’s noth­ing more they can do, per­haps find a trus­ted ser­vice tech or tech-savvy friend and have them help you out, since there’s so many vari­ables that could cause the prob­lems.

Bot­tom line, good instincts in search­ing out help. Giv­ing your con­sult­ing tech a lot of inform­a­tion or access to the machine will likely gen­er­ate a num­ber of pos­sible improve­ments.

And, since I men­tioned it above but you likely skimmed over it to get to the meat of this post, if you’ve got a tech ques­tion that you think I could help you with,  feel free to drop me a line through my con­tact me page. I’ll give it a shot 🙂

Are faster blogs more Google friendly?

Per­haps. And if you’re look­ing to be found by Google, you want to do everything you can to make sure you’re not doing things to make the pro­cess harder.

A month or so ago, Google announced that they’re rank­ing sys­tem would take page-load speed into con­sid­er­a­tion when determ­in­ing how to present search res­ults to vis­it­ors.

Even­tu­ally I’d read enough about this, and had installed a cool free per­form­ance mon­it­or­ing sys­tem (powered by Ping­dom) that allowed me to review my website’s dis­play speed. But of course, life gets in the way and I’d been a bit lax in review­ing it, so this past week­end I took a look. I found this:

This is a response-time graph, the short­er the green line, the bet­ter. Which meant that I now had to spend some time fig­ur­ing out what I’d done that caused my sys­tem to slow so sig­ni­fic­antly.

It appears that the cul­prit was a mis-con­figured cach­ing plu­gin. So, I spent a bit of time play­ing with the set­tings on the cache plu­gin, removed a couple of fancy ‘type’ related plu­gins that were call­ing extern­al javas­cript (extern­al con­tent calls can really slow things down, espe­cially large con­tent objects), and tweaked how the cache works.

And in ini­tial runs, I seem to have reduced the page-load speed by about  40%. Not as good as it was ini­tially, but bet­ter than it was quite recently.Yes, I’ll be mon­it­or­ing res­ults a bit more closely now, and tweak­ing things as I go. And of course, I’m always open to sug­ges­tions too — in the com­ments please 🙂

Hope­fully, Google will look more favour­ably on my blog, as this site isn’t quite the slug on the Inter­net any­more.

Time will tell.