You want to tune the keepalive-related directives to the best possible setting for your web site.
Turn on the KeepAlive setting, and set the related directives to sensible values:
KeepAlive On MaxKeepAliveRequests 0 KeepAliveTimeout 15
The default behavior of HTTP is for each document to be requested over a new connection. This causes a lot of time to be spent opening and closing connections. KeepAlive allows multiple requests to be made over a single connection, thus reducing the time spent establishing socket connections. This, in turn, speeds up the load time for clients requesting content from your site.
In addition to turning keepalive on, using the KeepAlive directive, there are two directives that allow you to adjust the way that it is done.
The first of these, MaxKeepAliveRequests, indicates how many keepalive requests should be permitted over a single connection. There is no reason to have this number set low. The default value for this directive is 100, and this seems to work pretty well for most sites. Setting this value to 0 means that an unlimited number of requests will be permitted over a single connection. This might allow users to load all of their content from your site over a single connection, depending on the value of KeepAliveTimeout and how quickly they went through the site.
KeepAliveTimeout indicates how long a particular connection will be held open when no further requests are received. The optimal setting for this directive depends entirely on the nature of your web site. You should probably think of this value as the amount of time it takes users to absorb the content of one page of your site before they move on to the next page. If the users move on to the next page before the KeepAliveTimeout has expired, when they click on the link for the next page of content, they will get that next document over the same connection. If, however, that time has already expired, they will need to establish a new connection to the server for that next page.
You should also be aware that if users load a resource from your site and then go away, Apache will still maintain that open connection for them for KeepAliveTimeout seconds, which makes that child process unable to serve any other requests during that time. Therefore, setting KeepAliveTimeout too high is just as undesirable as setting it too low.
In the event that KeepAliveTimeout is set too high, you will see (i.e., with the server-status handler see Recipe 11.4) that a significant number of processes are in keepalive mode, but are inactive. Over time, this number will continue to grow, as more child processes are spawned to take the place of child processes that are in this state.
Conversely, setting KeepAliveTimeout too low will result in conditions similar to having KeepAlive turned off entirely, when a single client will require many connections over the course of a brief visit. This is less easy to detect than the opposite condition. In general, it is probably better to err on the side of setting it too high, rather than too low.
Since the length of time that any given user looks at any given document on your site is going to be as individual as the users themselves, and varies from page to page around your web site, it is very difficult to determine the best possible value of this directive for a particular site. However, it is unlikely that this is going to make any large impact on your overall site performance, when compared to other things that you can do. Leaving it at the default value of 15 tends to work pretty well for most sites.