The browser that broke the network's back

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Saphfire D. Cook
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Davis-Monthan's computer network can be irregular to say the least. There are moments of high speeds and easy navigation and then times of turtle-slow page loading and network time-outs. The reasons behind the network hiccups are unknown; slow loading and connection errors seem to be par for the course. But what if the network users are the problem? What if trying to multi-task is actually crippling the work flow?

If you think of the world-wide web as a city, such as Tucson, then the network can be considered a gated community. And as with any private area, non-authorized individuals must be screened by security before they can gain entrance. The same can be said of websites and the network.

"Before a webpage can enter the network, it has to go through our screening system, which includes a firewall, a proxy, an internal router and an external router," said Airman 1st Class Ross A. Clemens, 355th Communications Squadron network administrator.

Although the process happens at high speeds, there is still a delay as the webpage travels through the system, and the more sites going through the system, the greater the delay.

"Too many sites can create a bottle-neck effect and slow the whole process down," Airman Clemens said.

The excess of sites in the system is largely due to users leaving browser windows open when they are not in use. Though the sites aren't actively being used they will continuously refresh themselves to update information, and each time they refresh they have to be screened through the system.

"The default setting on most news websites checks for updates every five minutes," said Staff Sgt. Jason Nickel, 355th Communications Squadron network operations technician. "Say a user goes to, checks the most recent news and then leaves the window up for two hours before they close it. That one website will have been screened 24 times; and if you multiply that by the more than 7,000 users on D'M's network at any given time you get a lot of arbitrary screenings."

Facebook and, both sites that automatically refresh, have the highest number of visits among D-M network users.

"Last week alone Facebook got over 3 million hits," Airmen Clemens said. "And Facebook is constantly refreshing itself. If a friend updates their status, the site has to pass through the filters again before the update can appear on your newsfeed."

Network users can cut-down on this problem by simply exiting a browser window when it is not in use.

"We're not saying that Airmen shouldn't log-on to sites like Facebook," Sergeant Nickel said. "We simply ask that they close the browser window when they are not using it."