With personal hard drives climbing into the terabytes and graphic-intensive multimedia content part and parcel of the average website, it’s no wonder that online speed is becoming more important. Providers sell access plans guaranteed to fall within a range or based on a top connection speed of so many kilobits or megabits per second. The question is, are you getting your money’s worth and how can you test connection speed?
Happily, several websites are dedicated to performing various functions that can accurately test connection speed. They report the number of kilobits or megabits successfully transferred to your computer, divided by the seconds the transfer took, to calculate speed. A few of the more popular sites are SpeedTest, AuditMyPC, and CNET Bandwidth Meter Speed Test.
SpeedTest uses your IP address to estimate your geographic location so that it can suggest a server close to your location to test connection speed. This provides more accurate results than serving the test up from a server located somewhere across the country. A server that’s located further away will have more “hops” between itself and your computer, meaning the data packets that travel between the server and your computer will have to be routed through more computers. The more hops, the more chance for latency issues unrelated to your Internet connection speed.
The CNET Bandwidth Meter Speed Test asks for your zip code, connection type and Internet Service Provider (ISP) to give you feedback about how your connection compares to others with the same type of service and provider. Entering the ISP is voluntary.
Since a number of issues can affect any single data transfer it’s best to take several tests, perhaps at different times of the day, and use the average result as an indicator of your actual Internet connection speed. It’s also a good idea to use several websites to test connection speed.
For cable Internet customers, bear in mind that connection speed can vary based on how many local residents are surfing simultaneously. You might find that your Internet connection is faster during the day when people are at work, than at night when more people are at home and online.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) customers are unaffected by load, but are affected by how far they live from the local DSL Access Multiplexor (DSLAM). The DSLAM feeds DSL out into the local neighborhood, with signal degrading at the outer limits of the DSLAM’s reach. A client who lives at the outskirts of the DSLAM’s reach will have a slower connection than a client who lives close to the DSLAM, even if both parties subscribe to the same plan.
After you test connection speed, if your Internet connection falls significantly short of expectations, you might try running anti-virus and anti-spyware scans. It could be that your connection is fine, but that a background process by rogue software is using the Internet connection for its own nefarious purposes, leaving you with only a portion of your allotted bandwidth. If you feel it’s the connection itself, contact your ISP and they will be able to test the connection to either verify proper functioning or repair problems.