When it comes to products making grand claims, I’m about as cynical as they come; there’s nothing I hate more than pseudo-science and quackery. So when I was told about Onspeed, at first I ignored it – the claims it made were just too preposterous. When a representative came in to explain how broadband speeds were possible over a dialup connection, I decided to give it a try.
First, I should make clear the claims of Onspeed. They say that you can make your dialup go five times faster, broadband three times faster, and GPRS go eight times faster. The fastest a dialup connection can possibly go is 56Kbps – and even that is a theoretical top speed that is never reached in real life. So how can Onspeed achieve the impossible? It’s all very clever: Onspeed is installed, and immediately gets things going more speedily. It manages this seemingly impossible task by using a proxy server. By using their own server they can do some clever compression, thus giving the appearance of a faster connection.
When the Onspeed software runs, every time you click on a link it sends a signal not to the Web site being referenced, but the Onspeed proxy server. The message is then passed on at high speed to the Web site in question, which answers at high speed to the Onspeed server. The Onspeed server then compresses the information and feeds it to your modem, where it is decompressed. I know this sounds like witchcraft, or at least some double-dealing techno babble, but it does make sense. I don’t think it makes much of a difference on broadband, but dialup connections did appear to go faster. However, measuring the speed of sites that use a proxy server is impossible to do accurately. I’m only prepared to say that I did see a noticeable improvement on dial-up.
The speed that you get is adjustable, depending on how heavily compressed you want your data.
For example, by compressing images to the maximum you will see all kinds of artefacts, and Web pages will look pretty bad. You will see a big increase in speed, though, and if you just want to read the text, it will be a great help.
So, Onspeed can do the impossible, but it isn’t without a downside. If you have it set to maximum compression, but then decide you would rather see an image uncompressed you can’t then change your mind. You will just be looking at the proxy server, so turning off the software and hitting reload won’t help.
There is also an option to turn off on-page adverts, which I couldn’t get to work at all.
If your only option for connecting to the Internet is by dialup or GPRS then this will be a help to the impatient. If you can stand to look at ugly pages then it will save you time, and sometimes that’s what you need. But I don’t think I would use it at that setting all the time. It’s a great thing to have for those moments when time really is money, though, and at £2 per month it’s well worth it.