Renaud Gaudin of Geekcorps-Mali has an excellent summary of ways to optimize your network when you are stuck with an over-priced and often over-sold VSAT connection. These low bandwidth/high latency networks are the bane of the humanitarian aid industry and suck up millions of dollars every year that would normally be used for purchasing medicine, food, supplies, etc. Renaud writes:
To use the Internet more effisciently and get the max of those tiny 200KB, we have used the following strategies:
- Cache web pages on the client computer at the radio station.
- Force the client computer to communicate only with a central server.
- Have the server strip images and ads from web pages.
- Have the server email news summaries to the client.
- Transfer email between client and server just once per day.
- Strip attachments from email messages.
- Compress all communication between client and server.
- Disable web access when the daily quota is exceeded.
- Provide continuous feedback of daily network usage to help the user learn to efficiently use the Internet.
He goes on to link to include a link to a Low Bandwidth Networking technical document. This is a fantastic document outlining the use of a Squid Proxy, Loband Filter, and even Ubuntu for running a lean and mean system when faced with major connectivity hurdles.
Defeating the scourge of the dirty, low bandwidth/high latency over-priced networks is the last great battle that has yet to be fought. Humanitarian organizations dump more money into bad connections than they chose to think about. All the philanthropic assets of the IT industry should be trained right now on solving this priority issue.
Chris Wilson and the folks over at Aptivate.org have been wrestling with this 400lb. gorilla for years now and they created Loband.org, wrote ‘How To Accelerate Your Internet’, and contributed to host of projects in an effort to defeat it. I started my own NGO, Humanlink, also in an effort to develop a solution to pressing humanitarian telecommincations and technology problems. We ran a successful mission in Indonesia last year where we rolled out Clark Connect Community Edition boxes at no cost to the organization we were assisting. Mercy Corps has been using Clark Connect for years due to it’s web caching (and other) abilities.