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updated 3/18/2005 10:06:23 PM ET 2005-03-19T03:06:23

The day you need to work from home is definitely a bad time for your broadband Internet connection to crash.

A case of "something going around" sidelined me for a few days last week but I was secure in the knowledge that I could still get some work done. Thanks to my DSL line I could connect to the office network via a virtual private network and stay in the loop on office e-mail. I was also planning to read the news online and do some banking.

But like a lineup of dominos something went awry with the DSL line, which made my wireless router and the Wi-Fi card in my laptop useless too. It's for moments like this that I keep a dial-up account with Earthlink.

But I had forgotten how lousy narrowband life can be. A connection to the office VPN was out of the question, and what really slowed me down was checking in with my financial institutions. I wanted to transfer some money between accounts and pay some bills. Getting these chores done took the patience of a saint.

It turns out there are a lot of patient saints out there. More than half of the Web users in the U.S. are narrowbanders, according to Bruce Leichtman, principal analyst with The Leichtman Group in Durham, N. H. Liechtman says there are 38 million dial-up users compared to 33 million broadband users in the U.S. However he says broadband should catch up and then surpass dialup sometime this year.

While waiting for my banking requests to complete — something akin to waiting for a half-full bottle of ketchup to start pouring — I thought of a company I met recently called JackBe. Founded in Mexico City and now based in a McLean, Va., it specializes in making Internet applications run faster, whether they're being served up over a fast connection or a slow one.

Luis Derechin, 36, is chief executive and his brother Jacob, 33, is chief technical officer. Luis says that when people do Internet transactions, speed goes a long way toward making that experience seem pleasant. But most companies just aren't very good at building Internet applications that run fast.

JackBe's product is called the NQ Suite, and it helps companies build simple, streamlined snappy user interfaces on top of complex applications, using nothing more involved than Dynamic HTML.

For companies building Web applications there are traditionally two ways to get the job done. One is through a client-server application, where part of the application runs on a server and the other on a user's PC. Performance can be fast in part because the server doesn't have to work very hard, but the downside is that users have to install some software on their machine.

The other way to build an application is simply to rely on the Web and let the application run on the server, and then serve up the results directly via the Web browser. There's no software for a user to install but running the application can eat up server time, which can yield a slower overall experience.

JackBe takes some of the good bits from each approach. There's no software to install on a PC and the overall performance is fast.

Luis showed me a few demonstration applications with interfaces built using NQ Suite. One happened to be a banking application. Moving funds from one account to another happened in a matter of seconds. No other parts of the page seemed to be reloading or refreshing.

The experience, he said, would be roughly the same over a broadband connection or on dialup. Pages load faster because they're using only a fraction of the code they would normally require, while portions of the page that don't change just don't get reloaded.

JackBe already counts Citigroup as a customer, and its technology is being used to develop an online banking site that will be aimed at customers in Latin America. Several other banks are using it, including Banco de Bogota and Banco de Occidente Credencial in Colombia. The Mexican building-materials concern Cemex used it to build the interface through which customers order its products. The home products company Tupperware used it for the interface through which its distributes products to its sales force. Between its 20 customers, two million people are interacting with JackBe-enabled Web sites every day, Luis says.

While waiting for my bank balances to refresh, I wished I was one of them.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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