US Army Web site performance slows to crawl

US Army Web site performance slows to crawl


With the US-led war against Iraq now under way, the US Army’s public Web site is apparently being strained by major performance drops due to high peak demand from Web surfers, according to Internet performance management vendor, Keynote Systems.

The US Army home page has been experiencing "severe problems" delivering content to Web visitors, according to a report issued by Keynote Systems.

Slow page-loading times began on the site Monday and worsened yesterday, apparently because of inadequate server capacity, the company said.

For family members of Army personnel and others interested in finding out information about the unfolding war, the slow Web performance of the site couldn’t come at a worse time, principal Internet consultant at Keynote, Eric Siegel, said.

"This is one of the first times these government military sites have been undergoing these kinds of demands," Siegel said.

High peak demand in recent years pushed e-commerce businesses to figure out how to handle it, he said. They had upgraded their capacity, shaved page-loading times and made other changes to improve performance.

That same kind of analysis would have to be done by the US military, Siegel said, if the Army Web site and others were going to be able to keep up with an inquisitive public.

"One wonders, Did they prepare for this?" he said. "Did they load-test? Probably not."

The US Army home page, which typically takes four seconds to load on a high-speed connection, averaged more than 80 seconds at peak times yesterday, according to Keynote’s measurements.

Other US military sites were having fewer performance problems, Keynote said.

The US Marine Corps Web site has slowed from a 4.5-second normal load time to more than 30 seconds. That problem appeared to be related to bandwidth rather than capacity, Keynote said.

The Marine Corps site performance has actually been improving because of changes made on the fly by Web technicians. Those technicians are thinning image sizes in an effort to allow the pages to load more quickly.

"They’re learning what the commercial sites have learned, that you don’t need an 800K GIF [image] for the page to look good," Siegel said, especially as most Web users were still accessing the Internet through slow dial-up connections. "The Marine Corps, to their credit, are [making those kinds of site changes] in the last day."

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