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slow folder browsing on VPN vs Window (AFPvsSMB-well not really)

3009 Views 9 Replies Latest reply: Feb 2, 2014 3:36 AM by Mantishead RSS
cpguru21 Level 1 Level 1 (55 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Nov 1, 2011 10:53 AM

Wondering if there is anyway to speed up any Macs that are browsing across a VPN.  Well the issue is not the VPN per say but more the way apple browses network directories.


I have a 10.6.8 server that shares a directory structure for my organization.  In house computers have no problems with speed, as they are on the local lan.  Now throw VPN into the scenario.


I understand fully that connection accross the VPN will depend on many factors, one of which being the service provider etc...


If I take a Mac (iMac 2010 running 10.6.8) and connect to the AFP OR SMB share, it seems to take forever to browse the directory structure just to get to the file the end user wants.


Same office and same VPN, browse the shared drive on a windows XP machine, and directory browsing is lightning fast.


It also seems the the opening (which I never recommend to my users) or copying of a file seems to take approx. the same amount of time, whether in mac or windows, it is the "getting to the file" that takes forever.


On the mac side, it is barely faster to connect over SMB, however still nothing close to as fast as the windows machine.  Does this seem normal?  and is there anything I can do for my Mac counter parts to speed up this process?


Thanks for taking the time to read this.


Please let me know what additional information you need.


Server is hosting SMD, AFP, iCAL, iCHAT, AddressBook, DNS, WEB on XServe running 10.6.8.

X-Serve, iMac - Various years, Macbook Pro 2010, iPhone, AIX, Windows 7, Mac OS X (10.6.8)
  • John Lockwood Level 5 Level 5 (5,080 points)

    Apple has always seemed to give poor performance for remote users compared to an equivalent Windows setup running over the same remote link. I think this is a combination of several things.


    Firstly, the Finder on a Mac gets a lot more information to display a directory listing than Windows Explorer on Windows does. The Finder is of course getting the same file/folder names but in addition can get Finder comments, labels (colours), custom icons, etc. which Windows Explorer would not.


    Secondly, I am convinced that AFP is not as efficient over slow links and/or high latency links as SMB.


    Thirdly, I am also convinced that the Finder is grotesquely inefficient in sending and processing commands and replies, whereas perhaps Windows batches things up. As an ancient example of this anyone else remember the floppy disk shuffle on the original Macs?


    I suspect because Apple have a very fast pipe to the Internet they have not appreciated how bad this can be. They need perhaps to consider getting a WAN link simulator and then they can see the problem and hopefully introduce more optimisation.


    Unfortunately there is not much you can do about any of these things, you could try using SMB on the Mac rather than AFP as this might cause the Finder to not try getting some of the extra information like colour labels. Avoiding using the Finder if possible is the best option, you could help achieve this by keeping shortcuts to files on the Server so you don't have to keep browsing to the folder itself.

  • Antonio Rocco Level 6 Level 6 (10,100 points)

    Hi John


    ". . . anyone else remember the floppy disk shuffle on the original Macs?"




    "I am convinced that AFP is not as efficient over slow links and/or high latency links as SMB"


    I've seen this also.


    "Apple . . . need perhaps to consider getting a WAN link simulator and then they can see the problem and hopefully introduce more optimisation"


    It's been mentioned to them before in the past and I've not seen them make too much of an effort in changing anything yet.





  • John Lockwood Level 5 Level 5 (5,080 points)

    cpguru21 wrote:


    Thanks John, and I hear SMB is going away in Lion? hmm I wonder if "fixing finder" for quick folder browsing is on apples agenda at all.  Probably not.  Oh well.  this makes file sharing across vpn un-useable for my users.


    insert frowney face here:


    there we go.


    SMB still exists in Lion and in fact is a 'new' written by Apple version supporting the latest SMB2 protocol. Apple call it SMBX since the old one was called Samba.


    Unfortunately at the moment Apple's new SMBX is very much a version 1 (literally) and has many rough edges and missing features.

  • John Lockwood Level 5 Level 5 (5,080 points)

    cpguru21 wrote:


    Thanks Tony.


    Hmmmm what to do for the future.  This seems like a must for WANs.  Makes me want to buy Windows machines instead of apple.......Does anyone know if alternative Finder apps, such as pathfinder, work much better or get close to the speed of Windows WAN folder browsing?


    After the death of X-Serves, this is yet another reason to doubt our investment in Apple technology, other than smart phone possibilities.  Afterall, the work better with exchange ;-)



    Thanks for the input Tony and John.  Always appreciate your advice/info.

    If your using a Mac client with any (remote) AFP server even one not made by Apple then you would still see the same speed issues in the Finder since the Finder is the biggest culprite due to it getting all that extra file information (amongst other things). So using ExtremeZ-IP for Windows, or netatalk for Linux would not make a difference.


    As I mentioned using SMB would make a very, very small improvement in theory. Yes, using anything except the Finder to access files would help, however the standard open/save dialog boxes would also be slow as well, doing a save with no dialog should be reasonably fast though.

  • Benjamin_76 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)


    I am experiencing the same type of issues. Since 2011, have you been able to find out a solution to speed-up finder browsing when connected via VPN ? Thanks

  • Mantishead Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have experienced this slow browsing over VPN for some time and always assumed it was just the price of network browsing over public broadband.  I now have fibre at both ends with both server and client running the very latest software on the highest spec machines and it's still pretty slow.  So, like I say I just thought this is the reality of things.


    However, I have recently placed a Synology NAS device in another location, also connected by fibre, and enabled VPN using AFP at both ends.  Boom, lighting fast browsing.  Works a treat.


    So my conclusion is that there is some ineffcieincy, or overhead, being caused by OSX server that slows everything down. 


    The NAS in question is Synology's base model so it certainly doesn't have blistering read/write, fast processing etc.


    Strongly considering replacing OSX server with performance Synology NAS which includes ALL of the network features I require from OSX.


    Not a solution for everyone but improved performance VPN is far more valuable to me than a traditional server.


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