Slow network transfers can be caused by many factors. The most common complaint regarding slow transfers come from users attempting to access data over the Internet. However, in corporate networks, slow network complaints may also come from users attempting to access corporate applications. Whatever the case, there are some common factors that cause slow transfer speed (or the perception of slow transfer speed) that may apply across any size network.
The Slowest Component
Imagine that you have been tasked to drain a pool of its water. The hose attached to the pump is wide and can work under tremendous pressure so it is therefore capable of moving large volumes of water quickly, however, it is not long enough to bridge the gap between the location of the pump and the pool itself. Connectors are used to attach more heavy duty hosing but the connectors themselves are quite narrow and brittle.
Once the pump is switched on and the water begins to flow you find that only a fraction of the hoses’ ample capacity is used because the water is backed up at the narrow connectors!
This analogy is true of networks, network transfers are only as fast as their slowest component. Consider your computer the water pump and the Internet the pool of water. If the connection between your computer and the Internet has any ‘narrow’ connectors at all then the entire flow is slowed to a trickle despite the majority of the infrastructure having a much greater capacity.
Technically speaking, the ‘narrow connector’ causing the slow network transfer need not be a slow link (although it is entirely possible that a slow link may be the actual bottleneck). A busy web site, inefficient routing, busy proxy servers, content filtering, traffic shaping and/or packet loss are just a few factors in a very long list of possible causes that can lead to slow network transfers.
As users, we would like transparency from the underlying technology. But when it comes to network transfers, any technology limitations can be difficult to mask. Those of us old enough to remember the Internet in the 1990s would recall waiting hours for some file transfers to complete. That type of response would be unacceptable today, and it is almost certain that todays’ network delays will be just as unacceptable in years to come.
In other words, the end users expectation is a leading factor for just what a ‘slow’ network transfer is. That is not to say that slow transfers are just a matter of perception. We become accustomed to certain levels of performance on the network and when they are not met the impact is obvious.