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Web Accelerator

Thursday, July 14th, 2005 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet

What is a Web Accelerator? Is it worth the money?

Who doesn’t want a faster internet connection? Especially those who are still using dial-up. Web accelerators claim to speed up your connection making pages load faster—but do they?

Yes and No. There are two kinds of accelerators: software and server accelerators.

With the software type, pages do load faster, but it’s just “smoke and mirrors”. Most grab all the pages for each link on a page and “prefetches” them. So, since pages are pre-loading behind the scenes, it gives the illusion of a faster internet connection.

A down side is that they clog up your temporary internet files or, if they have their own cache file, they take up space on your computer. If you go to a page with hundreds of links you could end up with a full cache in no time. You’ll also end up with more cookies. Some may even cache secure pages that contain passwords and other sensitive data.

High-speed dial up ISP’s often use a special server called an “acceleration server”. The A.S. uses a fast broadband connection to request the web page for you then caches the page, compresses data, filters out pop-ups, then sends it to you. The software provided by your ISP then uncompresses it. This all makes it seem up to five-times faster.

It’s great for text, HTML code, and JavaScript, but secure pages, downloads, and streaming media usually will not be accelerated. A down side is that photos and graphics are usually compressed and when you get them, the quality is diminished—if you get them at all (if you are on high-speed dial up and get the dreaded red X where a graphic should be, this may be the reason). The image size may shrink as much as 50% and go from crisp to cruddy.

If you don’t mind trading picture quality loss for a faster connection, then go for high-speed dial up. Some do give you the option to control how much graphics are compressed, so check for this feature if you are having problems getting pictures.

As for the software type accelerators, I would avoid them.


David Samuel Thomas

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