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What Causes My Website to Load Slowly?

The loading speed of your website on your web browser is affected by more internal and external forces than you can imagine.

Earlier this week I received an email from a client saying her website was loading slowly. This concerned me so I immediately checked how the website was loading on my machine over three different browsers: Internet Explorer, Fire Fox and Chrome. The website loaded nice and fast so I was left to ponder all the different reasons that cause a website to load slowly. Reasons for a slow loading website fall into two categories: Internal Forces and External Forces. Let's take a look at both.

Internal Forces

1. BHO - Browser Helper Objects
Many people unwittingly load “browser helper objects” in their browser that actually tax the speed of the browser interface. Examples of BHO's include: Adobe Acrobat (PDF), Bing, Google or Yahoo tool bars, Anti-Virus toolbars and so on. These get installed when you download or install software to your computer. In the snap shot below you can see 4 different helper objects installed in my IE 8.0 browser. I can elect to turn these off by un-checking the boxes.

Browser Helper Objects

2. Browser Cache
A browser cache is a temporary storage area in your computer that holds the most recently downloaded web pages. This is meant to help speed up the loading of websites you visit most often. But this is a Catch 22 feature because the browser cache can actually slow down the loading of websites on your browser when the temporary storage reaches capacity. For this reason I elect to clear my browser cache every other day. Instructions for clearing your browser can be seen here: http://www.visionefx.net/articles/clear-browser-cache.htm

3. Trojans or Viruses
Sometimes there could be Spyware, Malware, Trojans or Viruses running in the background disguised to look like a legitimate program. These can slow down your browser as well. Make sure your anti-virus and spam killer software is update.

4. System Registry and Computer RAM
If your system registry contains errors this can tax the random access memory (RAM) of your computer and slow down your browser.

5. Old Browsers
If you are using an old browser this could be a big problem. Update your web browser. If you are feeling really techie, then download and install three different types of browsers. Try all three and then use the one that is fastest or works best for you. I like Chrome, I.E. 8.0 and Fire Fox.

External Forces

In most cases, 90% of the time your browser is slow because of something happening outside of your control.

1. Traffic over your ISP
Your ISP is your Internet Service Provider. In Hampton Roads, VA, well known ISP's include Cox Cable, Verizon Broadband and Comcast.
Sometimes service providers may experience heavy online traffic, service outages or upgrades and maintenance. All of these can slow down your connection (your browser) on the Internet.

2. Traffic over the Entire Internet
There are hubs, routers and switches all over the globe that route data packets of information from point A to point B. There are lots of moving parts to sharing, viewing and receiving information over an electronic connection.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_exchange_points_by_size

3. The Host Server You Are Accessing
Every website you access is hosted somewhere on a computer server. About 75% of websites hosted in the U.S are on shared servers. On average these websites get a very small amount of traffic versus websites that are hosted on dedicated servers. However, it is possible for a website on a shared server to hog or consume bandwidth from other websites on the same shared server. In most cases good hosting companies have bells and whistles in place to detect and correct these circumstances, but it can still happen for days or weeks before corrections are made.

4. Wireless Routers
When connecting to a wireless network (Wi Fi), your Internet connection speed can be affected by both where your computer is located and whether other wireless devices are in the same area. Wireless networks operate on frequencies that are similar to those used by other devices, such as microwave ovens or cordless phones. Operating a 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) cordless phone next to your 2.4 GHz wireless laptop can cause interference, or completely block the wireless network connection. If you want to make phone calls while surfing the web, either use a wired telephone or cordless phone that operates at a different frequency than your wireless network.
Proximity to the wireless access point or router, as well as physical obstructions, can affect the quality of your Internet connection. To improve your connection speed, move closer to the access point and make sure that there are no physical obstructions between the access point and your computer.

Rick Vidallon is President of Visionefx, a Web design company based in Virginia Beach, Va. They provide services to national companies as well as small to medium businesses throughout the United States. Rick can be reached at (757) 619-6456 or rick@visionefx.net.

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