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When to respond to oubound messaging

i a currently working on a project the used the outbound messaging feature from salesforce. I Know that salesforce tries to deliver messages for 24 hours if it didn't get a responce. the way my web service is working now is :

accept message from salesforce -> send acknoledgement back to salesfoce-> process records

i am facing some issues of queries timing out in the last stage and even though salesforce assumes that the message was delevered correctly things that should happen are not happening as expected in the last stage.
I was wondering what the effects would be if i exchange the last two process and follow the following pattern

accept message from salesforce->process records-> send acknowleedgement back if everything goes fine

i don't want to receive a second message from salesforce because it assumed that the message wasn't delivered while i am processing records. Is there anybody who knows how long salesfoce waits before assuming that a message delivery has faild the first time.
10 seconds.