Speeding up Your Internet with a Local DNS Table

I remember back in the early eighties when I first started creating interactive programs that would be run on mainframe computers with dumb terminals attached. Back then I was told that a response time of more that two seconds in displaying the response to the user's enquiry was unsatisfactory and that programs that slow would need to be rewritten.

Haven't times changed since then. To get a response of under 2 seconds on the web you all of your visitors to have a connection at least 30 times faster than a 56k modem provides and pages no bigger than 100k including all of the associated files. Fortunately for you no one expects such a fast response time any more (isn't progress wonderful) and many visitors to a web site are prepared to wait up to 30 seconds for a page to display. This means that a dial up modem user may wait for a 100k page to display. That is why users should have affordable fiber internet, DSL, or cable modems, to avoid slow load times.

As the visitor to the site rather than the site creator, you have no control over how large the page is that you are trying to download and view. Hopefully the webmaster has considered the fact that many visitors are still using relatively slow connections and has limited their page sizes. If they haven't and you don't have some critical need to visit their specific page then there are probably plenty of other sites out there with better designed pages containing the same information.

Despite this lack of control on how big the pages are, a web visitor does have some control over how long pages take to load. Part of the time taken to download and view a page is the time taken to locate the page in the first place. The page creator has no control over this aspect of the total time but the visitor does.

The way that the internet works is that all domains on the web have their own IP address (eg. that is what the computers on the internet use to locate the web pages stored on that domain. Since these numbers are hard to remember we use domain names (eg. www.microsoft.com) instead and rely on a host lookup table somewhere on the internet to translate the domain name into the IP address for us. This process slows the search for the page because the request first needs to be passed to one (or perhaps a whole series) of computers containing these domain name tables in order to obtain the address of the computer containing the site that we are looking for and finally passing our request to that computer.

There is not much you can do about the search time when you don't know the page location to start with but everyone has their favourite web sites that they keep returning to on a regular basis. What we can do is to place a domain name table on our own computer that will translate all of the domain names for our favourite sites into IP addresses so that all of our requests to download and view pages from our favourite domains will be sent directly there instead of taking the long road.

The first thing that we need to do is to find out what the actual IP addresses of our favourite sites are. There are a number of sites on the web that you can use to find out this information including HCI Data.

The next thing that we need to do is to find the file called hosts on our computer and add our favourite sites into it. On a Windows or Windows NT/2000/XP system this file will be either in your windows folder or a sub-folder of your windows folder. The best way to find it is to use the find utility in the start menu. If you don't have a file called hosts (without an extension) then you should find one called hosts.sam which is a sample file that shows what a hosts file should look like. In this instance make a copy of the hosts.sam file named hosts (make sure it doesn't get an extension added).

Now all that you need to do is to add your favourite sites into the host file using a text editor such as notepad or wordpad. The format is IP address followed by one or more spaces then domain name then more spaces then # then any comments. For example: www.microsoft.com # Microsoft 

Once you have done this then whenever you specify one of your favourite sites using its domain name your own computer will automatically convert the domain name into the correct IP address and send your request straight there instead of having to pass it through one or more domain name servers in order to locate the correct destination. This will continue to work, speeding your access to your favourite sites, until such time as a site is moved to a different IP address (which happens occasionally). If one of your favourite sites seems to have disappeared from the web then use one of the previously mentioned sites to look up the IP address to check if the site has moved and if so then update your hosts file to reflect the new IP address for that site.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

go to top

FaceBook Follow
Twitter Follow