Most of us take the advertised bandwidths for granted. Do you really know the full potential of your Internet connection? Is there any way to test it? These questions might not matter if you are not a heavy downloader. However if your Internet connection seems slower than normal, its probably time to do an Internet speed test. It can give you a pretty accurate indication of how much bandwidth is at your disposal at a particular point in time.
How do Internet speed tests work?
One of the very first questions that might pop into your mind is how exactly does this work? The answer is fairly simple and quite interesting. There are three main types of capabilities that can be quantified in an Internet speed test. Namely, ping (or latency), download speed and/or upload speed.
Ping test: This is basically the time taken to receive a response from a test server after a request has been initiated to it.
Jitter: The amount of variation in latency.
Download speed test: A few files from a test server are downloaded to your computer and the time taken is measured. The different amount of time it takes to download these files is averaged to determine a final result.
Upload Speed test: This is very similar to the download speed test. The main difference in this case is that the files are now generated by the users computer and sent to a test web server which calculates an estimate of the time taken. The final result is presented in the form of an upload speed.
Now that we have some idea about how speed tests work, let us look at some of the ways of actually performing one.
Speedtest.net Global Broadband Speed Test
Operated by Ookla, speedtest.net is perhaps one of the most popular websites for our intended purpose. If you have been reading carefully, â€˜test web servers are pretty important to carry out these tests. The larger the number, more accurate the results and speedtest.net have a huge number of these. The nearest test location for you is automatically calculated based upon your IP address and you can save your statistics to compare them with results from around the globe.
Dan Elwell’s Broadband Speed Test
This particular test is available as a Windows program. It can identify areas of concern, monitor performance over time and generate diagnostics. Apart from the usual download/upload speeds, latency and jitter, this utility can also calculate packet loss and trace routes. The results can be exported to different file formats and shared by e-mail with your family or friends for a comparison. In order to keep track of your connection performance, scheduled testing can be done automatically at your specified time intervals.
Dslreports offers flash-based, java and mobile speed tests. A directory of speed tests from around the world is also available of varying types and quality.
CNET Bandwidth meter
This is probably one of the oldest speed test services. It features a modest user-interface and uses a permanent server located in the United States.
Broadband.gov Consumer Broadband Test measures download/upload speeds, ping and jitter.
Up until now we have covered what an Internet speed test is, how it works and how to initiate one. You probably went through a speed test already, got back your results and are now wondering exactly how good or how bad the figures are.
Let us assume you have a 3Mbps connection and your download speed was calculated as 1.5 Mbps. Is that acceptable? Would a calculated speed of 2Mbps be acceptable? Should you have been getting exactly 3Mbps? Usually, download speeds of 30 to 50% below the optimum that you pay for constitutes a bad result. It is also important to note whether the test was done during peak or off-peak hours. A speed of 1.5Mbps during off-peak hours for a 3Mbps connection is unacceptable.
Factors that influence connection speeds
One of the factors that can result in low Internet speed is the type of computer processor being used by the customer. For example if I am using a core2duo PC and my friend is using a Pentium II processor, then he is most likely to experience a slow Internet connection. Another important aspect is the distance that the data travels. Simply put, two computers which are close together will experience a better connectivity compared to the ones situated far away. Heavy traffic over your ISPs network can also limit your bandwidth. All ISPs are allocated a set amount of bandwidth that is shared among all their users. If a large number of users are downloading huge amounts of data at the same time, the network would saturate.
Natural conditions such as stormy weather and thunderstorms can cause interference with transmission of signals. A poor or substandard network card can also reduce the rate at which data is processed by your system. Apart from all this, there are many other factors also; hardware problems, malware/spyware, available memory and Internet settings on your computer.
How do I speed up my connection?
Wired connections are usually faster that wireless connection. Although WiFi technology is pretty popular these days, you may experience some interference. This can be rectified by changing the channel number being used by your router or repositioning it. It is also important to note that wired mediums work best with short LAN cables, typically below 50 meters. The DNS servers from most ISPs are pretty slow. You can change your DNS address to any one of the free and fast server addresses. A good example is that of â€˜Google Public DNS.
There might be numerous programs on your computer which consume precious bandwidth in the background by downloading updates or transferring data. You can control which programs you want to give Internet access to from your firewall in order to taper off the unnecessary load. Your computer might have also reserved some bandwidth (typically 20%) for automatic updates. You can reduce this to a lower figure.
Sam Jones was concerned about his broadband speed test. Checking this online showed that it was not good enough and uSwitch helped him to find another service which was not only quicker but offered better value for money.
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