17 Ways To Speed Up Your Network -- For Free - InformationWeek

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3/20/2006
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17 Ways To Speed Up Your Network -- For Free

Learn how to speed up throughput without breaking the bank, by optimizing the network and eliminating unnecessary performance hogs.

Got a sluggish network, but don't want to break the bank speeding it up? We've got free and relatively inexpensive help for you. While some of the steps we recommend might include minor hardware upgrades, they are far less expensive than large consulting contracts or "forklift-type" IT upgrades.

To get our tips, we've polled three networking specialists for their advice. They've come up with 17 tips -- here's what they have to say.

Tom Leahy, product marketing manager for IP services at Pittsburg, Pa.-based TelCove, an integrated communications provider that offers Internet, voice, and data solutions, recommends these steps to boost network performance:

1. Assess traffic loads on the network, including the destination and source of all traffic. By moving around some network resources, a company many be able to improve network performance. For example, in a campus environment, if a particular server is being used by people in a common location (i.e., a particular building), the obvious thing to do is to make sure that server is actually located in that building. Otherwise that traffic will bog down other communications that must go between buildings.

2. Optimize IP addressing. This helps minimize the load on routers. The shorter the lookup table a router needs to determine where to send packets, the better.

John Heasley, one of the co-founders of Shrubbery Networks, a Portland, Ore.-based computer and network consulting services company, offers these recommendations:

3. Adjust hosts and network devices to use larger maximum segment size (MSS) at the initial connection or even the maximum transmission unit (MTU) of ~1460 for Ethernet. The old default of 576 is antiquated and most links should support this by now. Just make sure they do not set the DF (Don't Fragment) bit on every frame (Microsoft likes to do this).

In fact, you use IP MTU discovery to increase the MSS over time, but it doesn't help short-lived connections (i.e., for the Web).

4. Turn off IPX. Heasley calls IPX "one of the worst protocols ever." IPX is very chatty, Heasley explains, and, therefore, is very susceptible to any kind of latency. This also reduces overall operating expense because network administrators only have to verify a smaller subset of code for network device software upgrades.

Turning off IPX can also improve overall throughput for networks devices that only support process switching for these (or all) protocols, since these protocols tend to be heavier and less efficient (in terms of overall code efficiency). Netbui can safely be turned off as well.

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