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Word2003 so slow to save over network

By NickDavis ·
We have 5 users at single remote site using new XP Pro workstations [with all updates and patches installed] across 500adsl VPN connection to a Windows2000 server. They also use this setup to access specialist industry specific software which runs as fast as if they were local to the server.

However when they attempt to use Word2003 accessing files on the remote server the air turns blue. We have run some tests as follows:
1. For our main office with 10 users all Word2003 functionality - with their files also al saved on the server - is fine effectively instantaneous for all actions
2. For the remote site the following are typical timings:
a. Open their local copy of Word2003: instantaneous
b. Select open file [icon or file-open command] which opens their space on the remote server: 6 secs until list completed [typically contains about 30 to 50 smallish files]
c. Open a specific word document of 25k size (to the time regain mouse/cursor control): 12 secs
d. Close and save the file to moment regain cursor control: 40++ secs

Have asked our VPN provider to monitor traffic and they tell us there is no bottleneck issue, which the speed of the specialist software seems to confirm. We decided to allow the remote site to save word documents locally to a (currently) spare XP pro workstation and created a shared folder for them all to use there. If then redo the above tests the following results apply:
a. instantaneous opening Word2003 as would expect
b. Select open file and wait for directory file list: 3-4 secs
c. Open specific word file of about 25k size, to time regain cursor control: 3-4 secs
d. close and save the word file to this spare local PC shared directory: 3-4 secs

Whilst these speeds are not instantaneous they are a lot better than the times above across the VPN. My understanding however is that times should be no more than a few seconds for each action unless we had loads of files in a single directory or very large files being used which we

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by sgt_shultz In reply to Word2003 so slow to save ...

see if they can quickly open the network resource if you walk them thru the unc for it. Start/run \\servername\resourcename\filename
if it goes fast then, maybe you have webclient problem. this was supposed to be fixed with latest sp tho but the delay timing might be right. you need to disable the service from automatically starting up on the client for a test.

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by sgt_shultz In reply to

i admire your troubleshooting and may i point out that as you know, you still have not eliminated network as possible problem.
also, how is the login time for these folks. do they login fast?

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by jm In reply to Word2003 so slow to save ...

Unfortunately, in my experience these kind of response times are pretty normal and totally unacceptable from the user's perspective. The bottleneck is in the RPC handshaking that occurs every time a Windows client computer accesses a Windows server computer. RPC just does not tolerate the latency required as VPN packets are being encrypted and decrypted.

Your absolute best solution to this problem is to use an IIS on the server running FRONTPAGE EXTENSIONS to function as a file server; users then save their files to the server using HTTP. Office supports this well.

Other possibilities.

1. FTP uses no RPC and no handshaking. Out of frustration, my customers use FTP, which is much faster. You can create an FTP site on your server with no 3rd party software necessary, and XP Pro supports FTP from explorer under "add network places." Users need to FTP files back and forth prior to editing in word, and you don't get file locking.

2. You could enable background save on Word but I'm not sure if it will address a loss of cursor control.

3. There is a common error in VPN implementations involving frame size. If you are using PPTP for Internet access at either end of the connection, PPTP will require a few bytes of overhead in each frame. This causes a mismatch in frame size and an enormous performance problem as frames must be broken apart prior to transmission. Your VPN provider should be able to support a smaller frame size if necessary. If this is an issue you resolve this will perhaps cut your performance problem in half, but it still be a problem.

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by jm In reply to

Oops I missed something obvious here. In Word go to Tools->Options->Save and check the box "Make local copy of files stored on network or removable drives". That will cut down the problem somewhat.

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