WWW FAQs: How come my home website is slow?

2007-03-08: "Hey, how come downloads from my home-hosted website are so slow?"

You're hosting a website at home, possibly after reading my article how can I host my website at home? But even though you have a "fast" DSL or cable modem connection, downloads from your website are not fast. What's wrong?

Upload Speed Versus Download Speed

Most people don't upload stuff to the Internet anywhere near as much as they download stuff from the Internet. Most DSL or cable modem customers want to download YouTube videos faster— not "push" (upload) their own web pages to the rest of the world.

Cable and DSL providers know this. So they provide "asymmetrical" service, where uploads are much slower than downloads. Specifically, many DSL connections upload at only 128kbps (roughly 128,000 bits per second), even though they download at 1.44mbps (roughly 1,440,000 bits per second). Cable connections tend to have somewhat faster upload speeds but are still typically limited to 384kbps (384,000 bits per second).

Traffic Shaping: It's Even Worse Than You Thought

Sure, asymmetrical speeds are bad news for home hosting. But that's not the worst of it. Many cable and DSL ISPs (Internet connection companies) also "throttle" your connection with a technique called "traffic shaping." And traffic shaping deliberately limits how fast uploads from home-hosted websites and peer-to-peer tools like BitTorrent can go. So you may experience even lower maximum speeds on your home-hosted website.

Home-based hosting is fun, but limited speed is only one of many many reasons why it usually isn't practical. Especially when commercial web hosting is dirt cheap— under $10 a month can get you a professionally hosted site with a high-speed, redundantly wired connection to the Internet. For more information, see my article should I host my website at home?

Those who are determined to host downloads of large files at home should consider publishing them via BitTorrent. This way, your website visitors are all contributing bandwidth and helping the files to reach all of your other visitors. For more information and complete directions to host a torrent of your own, see my article how can I distribute large files without using too much bandwidth?

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