Slow browsing and file opening in Windows via a VPN

Posted on 2011-10-05
Last Modified: 2012-06-27
I am assisting a friend with their small business network / office move from a formal office to a virtual office where everyone works from their home.  They purchased and installed Sonicwall TZ-210s in everyone's home.  The Sonicwalls have a VPN connection to the small business server located in one employee's home.  The VPN tunnels are working great - with one exception.  Whenever any of the employees try to browse a folder or open a file on a mapped drive, it takes an extraordinary amount of time.  (The employee with the server in their home is the obvious exception; they have no folder/file issues.)  By "extraordinary", I'm talking a 3-5 minute wait, or longer.  Now I realize we are at the mercy of ISP bandwidth, but 3-5 minutes seems REALLY slow to me.  A copy of a 25k file from the server to one of the client PC desktops took 3 minutes.  One particular employee has both a Mac and a PC at their home.  The Mac can view folder contents and open files from the server in seconds.  The PC takes 3-5 minutes.  That test told me that the Sonicwall is not the culprit.  So I'm guessing that it has something to do with the Windows PCs and the server...but what?  Incidentally, the PCs that are being used were the same client PCs that were in the original office.  Is there something I should be doing to change them to VPN clients?

Some pertinent information:

The ISP connection at the server is 60 Mbps DOWN and 10 Mbps UP.  This has been verified by using various speed testing web sites.
The ISP connections at all other locations are no less than 22 Mbps DOWN and 5 Mbps UP.
The CPU utilization of the Sonicwall at the server location is around 10%.  No errors in the log.
All client PCs are running Windows XP SP 2.
The server is running Microsoft SBS 2008.
If I map a drive on a PC in my office (in a different domain), I can connect to their server and browse folders and open files in seconds.  (I also have a Sonicwall TZ210 on my office.  I have Windows 7 installed.)

What do you experts suggest?
Question by:wheelsm
    LVL 5

    Expert Comment

    Are the PC's that are in users homes still on the domain? or have they been disjoined if not have you tried logging on locally. Are ping responses slow? Have you looked at dns issues what if you try access shares by ip. Is there any av running that could possibly be scanning the files
    LVL 41

    Accepted Solution

    First of all, no PC should be running XP SP2. Microsoft stopped releasing security updates for SP2. Upgrade to SP3 to keep them secure.

    What is the latency between a XP workstation and the server? All versions of Windows before Vista/2008 have poor WAN performance, and are very negatively affected by latency. If that is truly your problem, you would need to upgrade the clients to vista or better, or do something like Remote Desktop/terminal services.  

    I agree that issues like DNS and domain membership are worth looking into.

    Author Comment

    Thank you for the suggestions.

    First, my apologies.  I mistyped the XP version of the client PCs.  They are running XP SP3, not SP2 as I stated originally.  DNS is set to the business server first, then a public DNS server.  The mapped drive is using the IP address of the server rather than the server name.  The employees are logging in to their PCs using the server domain, not the local domain.  The PCs were never dis-joined.  Here are the results of tests I ran this morning:

    Ping times are averaging 30ms.  Not bad.
    Logging in to the server domain and copying a 35k file (Excel file) took 45 seconds.  Opening the file directly from the mapped drive took 2 minutes.  (Better than what had been seen before).
    When logging in to the local domain and copying the same file took 30 seconds.  Opening the file directly from the mapped drive took 1 minute.

    Clearly, logging in to the local domain is the better option.  That and maybe upgrading the client PCs to newer laptops and Windows 7.

    Any other suggestions?
    LVL 16

    Assisted Solution

    windows browsing and filesharing over a WAN is painfully slow, pretty much always.

    FTP or a webapp or pretty much anything would probably be faster (sorry)

    it's a very chatty protocol that works great at 100Mbps or faster, but not very well and anything less than LAN speed.

    Author Closing Comment

    Latency times between the client PCs and the server were very good.  No DNS issues were apparent.  DNS on the PCs were pointed first to the business server (using the IP address), then secondly to a public DNS server.  Disjoining the client PCs from the domain showed some slight improvement, but not enough to satisfy the client.  The only conclusion I can draw is that Windows XP is inherently slow through a VPN connection.  The client opted to purchase MacBook Pro laptops for their employees and avoid Windows altogether (except for the server).  This was a direction the client wanted to take in the long-term anyway.

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