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Whilst we all heralded the arrival of ‘uncapped’ ADSL broadband in South Africa, and the pending 10Mbps ADSL speeds, that’s only half the story. Many don’t realise that past a certain point, the throughput speed of your internet connection will not actually result in your favourite website speeding up.
The majority of South African businesses and many residential customers are currently connected to a 4Mbps ADSL connection. The bandwidth figure is important, but by no means the only factor in determining the performance of your internet connection. Internet browsing, more commonly known as web traffic, is highly sensitive to Round Trip Times (RTT), or commonly known as ping times.
Consider the analogy of plumbing and the internet, with your ADSL connection being the proverbial pipe from the internet to your office or home. A larger pipe does not mean the water will flow faster, it will just allow more water to flow. The speed of the water flow does not increase, as is the case with the internet, which travels at the speed of light.
As with a water pipe, the more you stretch the length of the pipe, the longer it takes for the traffic to travel from the web server to the computer. If the web traffic’s source is the UK, your ping time is about 250-300 milliseconds. The web server to-and-fro communication will slow the website load time down significantly — no matter how big you make your pipe. With a locally-hosted web server, the pipe becomes dramatically shorter, around 20-50 milliseconds, speeding up your web browsing dramatically.
Companies like Google want you to have the best browsing experience possible. This is one of the major factors for Google putting local content caches into South Africa and even other African countries like Kenya. It’s all about the user experience, and it’s no coincidence that Google’s websites are fast.
To take advantage of these physical ping time limitations, host your website or web application where the majority of your users are. If they are local, host locally, and the same logic holds true for overseas. Bottom line is the users will get the best experience and love you for it.
The ADSL upgrade from 4Mbps to 10Mbps is a good thing though. It will allow you high speed access to local content at the same time as allowing more concurrent data connections for those offices that 4Mb/s doesn’t cut it for. Only expect a faster browsing experience if your 4Mb/s line was previously congested.