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Dexter Dionisio, MCSE, is systems administrator for Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington, a frequent winner of "100 Most Wired Hospitals" awards. Dionisio advocates running two or three proxy servers in a row that act as one. "You can have servers or a proxy application caching for you," says Dionisio. "It adds fault tolerance for a larger cache of web pages to be saved. As more people visit, more pages are cached. One of the algorithms checks time to live (TTL) for the web pages, and increases your potential hit for a recently cached web page."

Considering that the point is improving performance for users until somebody opens the purse for more bandwidth, that's a very appealing idea—and it gets better: "Because the cache resides on a hard drive, you could actually increase the response of the server performance by having a fast hard drive," Dionisio continues. "Hard drives are out now with speeds of 15,000 rpm, which improves the read performance. When you increase memory, which has also dropped in price, you get things fed to you even more quickly."

"There's a common misconception when it comes to servers—especially proxy servers," adds Dionisio. "You usually have two networks: In one, you're exposed to the public network (the Internet), and the other is open to the private network (the intranet). People commonly get the fastest network card on both sides—the gigabit cards. That's fine and dandy on the internal network, but on the Internet, which is slower, it does you very little good to get gigabit. It doesn't hurt—but most firewalls only have a 10-megabit network connection, and that's all you really need right now."

TIP

Serving VPNs? If you're carving out private tunnels across the Internet for your users, you have security, not speed, foremost in mind—but that doesn't mean condemning your users to the pace of airport security lines.

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