Why Relay Load Varies
Tor manages bandwidth across the entire network. It does a reasonable job for most relays.
But Tor's goals are different to protocols like BitTorrent.
Tor wants low-latency web pages, which requires fast connections with headroom.
BitTorrent wants bulk downloads, which requires using all the bandwidth.
We're working on a new bandwidth scanner, which is easier to understand and maintain.
It will have diagnostics for relays that don't get measured, and relays that have low measurements.
Why does Tor need bandwidth scanners?
Most providers tell you the maximum speed of your local connection.
But Tor has users all over the world, and our users connect to one or two Guard relays at random.
So we need to know how well each relay can connect to the entire world.
So even if all relay operators set their advertised bandwidth to their local
connection speed, we would still need bandwidth authorities to balance the load
between different parts of the Internet.
What is a normal relay load?
It's normal for most relays to be loaded at 30%-80% of their capacity.
This is good for clients: an overloaded relay has high latency.
(We want enough relays to so that each relay is loaded at 10%. Then Tor would be almost as fast as the wider Internet).
Sometimes, a relay is slow because its processor is slow or its connections are limited.
Other times, it is the network that is slow: the relay has bad peering to most other tor relays, or is a long distance away.
Finding Out what is Limiting a Relay
Lots of things can slow down a relay. Here's how to track them down.
- Check RAM, CPU, and socket/file descriptor usage on your relay
Tor logs some of these when it starts. Others can be viewed using top or similar tools.
- Check the Internet peering (bandwidth, latency) from your relay's provider to other relays.
Relays transiting via Comcast have been slow at times.
Relays outside North America and Western Europe are usually slower.
Tor Network Limits
Relay bandwidth can be limited by a relay's own observed bandwidth, or by the directory authorities' measured bandwidth.
Here's how to find out which measurement is limiting your relay:
- Check each of the votes for your relay on consensus-health (large page), and check the median.
If your relay is not marked Running by some directory authorities:
- Does it have the wrong IPv4 or IPv6 address?
- Is its IPv4 or IPv6 address unreachable from some networks?
- Are there more than 2 relays on its IPv4 address?
Otherwise, check your relay's observed bandwidth and bandwidth rate (limit).
Look up your relay on Metrics.
Then mouse over the bandwidth heading to see the observed bandwidth and relay bandwidth rate.
Here is some more detail and some examples: Drop in consensus weight and Rampup speed of Exit relay.
How to fix it
The smallest of these figures is limiting the bandwidth allocated to the relay.
- If it's the bandwidth rate, increase the BandwidthRate/Burst or RelayBandwidthRate/Burst in your torrc.
- If it's the observed bandwidth, your relay won't ask for more bandwidth until it sees itself getting faster.
You need to work out why it is slow.
- If it's the median measured bandwidth, your relay looks slow from a majority of bandwidth authorities.
You need to work out why they measure it slow.
Doing Your Own Relay Measurements
If your relay thinks it is slow, or the bandwidth authorities think it is slow, you can test the bandwidth yourself:
- Run a test using tor to see how fast tor can get on your network/CPU.
- Run a test using tor and chutney to find out how fast tor can get on your CPU. Keep increasing the data volume until the bandwidth stops increasing.