Everyone’s heard the jokes about www meaning “world wide wait,” and we’ve all experienced the frustrations of clicking to download a web page and then waiting while it ever-so-slowly crawls onto your screen. Usually, we blame our too-slow communication lines for these delays. As a recent Department of Commerce survey shows, many parts of the country are indeed hindered by slow Internet service, and will be for some time. For example:
o High-speed Internet access is available in 56 percent of cities with populations over 100,000; in just 32 percent of towns between 50,000 and 100,000 population; 17 percent in towns of between 25,000 and 50,000 population, and less than 5 percent of towns with less than 10,000 population. (“Advanced Telecommunications in Rural America,” Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, April, 2000)
o High-speed Internet access can cost 700 percent more for businesses in rural areas than for businesses closer to urban centers. (Rural Prosperity Task Force Report, February, 2000)
o A high-speed line that costs a business in Greensboro, N.C. $216 a month now costs a business in rural Henderson, N.C. $2,670 a month. (Associated Press, 3/16/2000)
This problem will take years to solve. Meanwhile, any church organization that can’t get fast Internet service will have to find another way to overcome these high costs and slow speeds. For the great number of web users limited to 56K communication lines, there is a very low-cost approach to solving this problem, based on a recently patented technology called “browser caching and pooling.” This technology combines and shares the Web browsers on network-connected PCs, creating a large “virtual cache” that tests show can increase Web download speeds by up to nearly 100 times. This can help church organizations to pump their Internet connections full of caffeine and watch them fly.
Here’s a typical scenario: you’re in a group with 10 people and every morning each person downloads the online Christian Computing Magazine. With a slow modem this takes minutes and eats up the available bandwidth. With the patented browser caching and pooling technology, one person downloads Christian Computing and it sits in the shared “browser cache,” available to everyone else. When someone goes out to the web for the online site, their PC first looks for the web pages within the local shared cache — it doesn’t go out to the ‘net. If it’s there, it’s available instantly — no download, no waiting.
Only if the web pages are not in the shared cache will the search then jump out to the web for a slow download. The bigger the workgroup, the more likely it is that the desired web pages will be in the shared cache. In fact, this technology enables you to set up pre-defined downloads at off-times, so the shared browser cache is always full of the latest, most frequently used information. All of this is invisible to users; all they know is that they’re accessing web information much, much faster.
The benefits of this technology are even more apparent for pastors and lay leaders who need to download lots of graphical content. Think about a church organization in which members are doing research online and checking out daily news and information on the same type of Web sites at a molasses-like 56K. Browser caching and pooling is the perfect solution for this type of application. Similarly, any group that tends to work on the same set of problems, like a research group or a class at school, will quickly realize the tremendous performance gains of this caching and pooling approach.
How does this work in the real world? For example, at a school outside Boston, inexpensive caching and pooling software, loaded on PCs in a classroom group, sped up Internet downloads by a factor of 11 times. Where previously the users had been downloading at a speed of about 33kb per second, their downloads jumped to a speed of 370kb per second. That’s not quite T1 speed, but 11 times faster is obviously better. Outside the U.S., where access to high-bandwidth lines is even more restricted, the benefits of browser caching and pooling are even more outstanding. In many countries, high bandwidth is still not available at any price, and won’t be for years to come.
So, the performance benefits of this way to increase communications performance are compelling. Just as compelling are the cost savings available to users. In many parts of the country, high-speed T1 service can cost 10 times more than 56K service- literally thousands of dollars per month. The latest generation of browser caching and pooling software can cost below $20 per user and the more users you have, the faster it goes. Performance gains of only half the amount typically found in benchmarking tests still mean that 56K web downloads are happening at an apparent speed of more than 2 Mb per second which is actually faster than T1 service. If you’re working in a church organization that can’t get affordable T1 service — or any other relatively fast service new technology means you may not need it. Let’s ask again- who needs a T1 line? With this new technology, most web surfers don’t, and you may not either.