Most internet users around the world simply take the router and DNS settings given to them by their ISP. They enter a username and password. The internet works and they don’t think about their internet connection again. However, there are a number of tweaks to your router that can materially improve the speed and response (or latency) of servers on the internet.
Web pages are getting bigger and more complex
The average web page is 965kb. Each page downloads content from 13 different servers. Your computer must look up a DNS entry for each server your browser downloads content from. Each DNS lookup adds to the page download time. Faster DNS means faster page downloads. A user can’t change what an internet server sends to their browser. They can tweak their often ignored router and DNS settings.
Tweaks to improve your internet experience
DD-WRT Router software
You should install the open source router software DD-WRT. This post was inspired by a great article at InfoWorld. I have used DD-WRT for nearly ten years, but never had the time to write an article like this.
In my limited anecdotal experience, a Linksys WRT54G running DD-WRT is 30-50% faster (speed and latency) than the same router running the firmware (or software) that the factory installed on it. The difference I suspect is that the factory makes routers, and the DD-WRT community has a single purpose of creating the best router software. Recently, some router manufacturers (including ASUS and Buffalo) are either installing DD-WRT at the factory or advertising their compatibility. It wasn’t that long ago that manufacturers tried to prevent the installation of third party software on routers.
If you need to, I recommend you buy a new router that runs DD-WRT.
When a user clicks on a hyperlink, or types a web address into the address bar, the browser will look up an IP address from a Domain Name Server (DNS). An average web page will download content from at least 13 different web addresses requiring atleast 13 DNS lookups. It takes time to download these lookups from multiple servers.
I originally changed my DNS servers to OpenDNS. OpenDNS offers faster servers and some great additional functionality. However, my selection of OpenDNS resulted in a slower internet connection because they were not the fastest (for me). You need to benchmark your potential DNS servers.
DNS Benchmarking – find the fastest DNS servers near you
The following software will test the latency and speed and recommend the best servers for you location.
There may be a problem with simply selecting the fastest DNS servers resulting from the benchmark software above. A Content Distribution Network (CDN) will distribute multiple copies of large files (videos, photos etc) to different servers around the world so that the file can be delivered to the browser from a nearby server. The DNS will pick the CDN server nearest to the DNS. This means that choosing a DNS server a long distance away may also result in using CDN servers a long distance away. The DNS may be fast, but the CDN servers may be slow resulting in a less than optimal service overall.
Quality of Service (QOS)
DD-WRT has QoS ( click here for more information ). I recommend you set HTTP (port 80) to premium.