Ever feel like your internet is running slow? Web pages seem sluggish while uploads and downloads take forever! It's very frustrating, especially when you pay for high-speed internet. Many things can cause websites and emails to load slowly. It could be your browser, your computer or a website problem.
It's not always the same issue causing your system to run slowly, either. Internet slowdowns on home networks could mean a variety of things, not just throttling.
Sometimes there's a problem with the site that you are trying to visit. Other times the problem is with your internet connection. But how can you pinpoint the issue?
The first thing that you need to check is your internet connection speed, preferably with multiple services. With a wired connection, go to a reliable internet speed testing site, run their tools, then compare the results with your internet provider's advertised speed for your plan. (Rates are usually in Mbps).
Note: Make sure no one in your home network is doing bandwidth-hogging tasks like file downloads, file sharing, video streaming, video chats, etc. You don't want any activity within your control to be skewing the results.
But first, what speed is right for you?
With almost every provider, there are different tiers of internet speed rates to choose from. The cheaper the plan, the slower your connection will be.
Depending on your activities, is your internet connection fast enough? Or are you paying for bandwidth that you don't need?
Here's an outline of what speed you have to aim for based on your needs:
1 - 3 MBps - Good enough for web surfing, email, social, casual online gaming (if you don't mind some latency) and email. However, this is not ideal for video streaming.
3-4 MBps - The slowest possible speed you need for standard video streaming from services like Netflix. This may be enough for a one-computer household but with all the HD content that's available on the web right now, this will lead to constant video buffering.
5-10 MBps - Netflix recommends at least 5 MBps for a single HD stream and you'll double that for two simultaneous HD streams. Although this is the baseline speed that is required for HD content, it could still lead to buffering especially if you have multiple connected gadgets at home.
10 -20 MBps - This is the lowest speed you should aim for if you want a consistent and reliable internet experience. If you constantly download files from the web and cloud storage services, get a plan with this advertised speed at the very least.
20 MBps and beyond - Now we're talking. Households with multiple computers and gadgets, video streaming services, smart appliances and simultaneous users should aim for at least a 20 MBps plan. Most providers can accommodate this speed with their mid-tier internet plans.
Is your connection up to snuff?
Now that you have an idea what internet speed is required for certain activities and tasks, is your actual bandwidth close enough to your provider's advertised speed? It's time for a speed test. Here is a list of the most popular ones you can try.
One of the most well-known internet speed test services available is Ookla Speedtest. This service can measure your connection's ping response, download and upload speeds from a remote server.
What is Ping? This measures how fast you get a response back from the test server. A fast ping means a more responsive connection.
As for download and upload speeds, measurements are given in bits per second. Higher numbers are better. Download speeds will typically be much faster than upload speeds.
You can also compare these numbers against the speeds that your internet service provider promises you. Be sure to run multiple tests over several days at different times. This will give you an overall picture of your connection speed. You also might find specific periods when it's slow, depending on your area's network congestion.
You can then compare your results with other users via the Speedtest Global Index and see if your speed is on par with internet services around the world.
Did you know that Netflix has its own internet speed test called Fast.com? The video streaming giant began ranking providers based on internal measurements back in 2011, with the goal of bringing transparency to speeds ISPs supply so customers truly understand what internet speed they are getting.
What differs from this index and Fast.com is that instead of measuring monthly speeds during prime time, users can test internet speed at any point throughout the day.
Using Fast.com is easy! It's all browser-based, so you don't even have to download anything. Just point your web-based or mobile browser to Fast.com and the test will automatically run and show your download speed when it's done.
For more details about your connection, tap or click the "Show more info" box. This will show you your latency, upload speeds and the servers used for the test. You can also share your results directly to Twitter or Facebook if you so desire.
Note: Latency is directly related to ping response. It measures how long it takes for the data to travel between the source and the destination.
Although Fast.com works great even on a browser, it also has mobile apps for iOS and Android. These apps are basically mirror versions of the web tool but try them out if you want quick access to the tool.
Another excellent web-based speed test is SpeedOf.Me. What's great about this tool is the real-time graph that tracks the fluctuations in the speeds while the test is running. It can even provide you with a graphical history of all the tests you've run for comparison.
Other tests you can try
Other alternative speed tests can be accessed straight on the search engine of your choice. For example, search for the keywords "speed test" on Google and the first hit will show Google's very own speed test tool, which can be run directly on the results page.
The same is true with Bing. Just search for "speed test" via Bing and the first result is a handy speedometer-style internet speed tool that measures ping response plus download and upload speeds.
Tips for more accurate results
To accurately measure your internet connection speeds, here are more tips.
1. Whenever available, always use a wired connection for more accurate and consistent results. Why? The culprit of your slower speeds may lie on your Wi-Fi connection and not on your ISP connection itself.
2. Do multiple tests and if the average of the results is only about 5-10 Mbps off, then that should be tolerable. Factors like congestion during peak times and your distance from the relay hardware will contribute to slight variations on your speed. (For more accuracy, you could turn your Wi-Fi radios off during the wired tests.)
3. If your wired results are way lower than advertised, a consistent 20 to 30 Mbps difference, perhaps, then there might be something else going on.
4. Check your hardware first and see if it's compatible with your provider's recommendations. For example, older DOCSIS 2.0 modems can't go beyond 38 Mbps. If you have a rate plan of 50 Mbps and above, better upgrade your modem to DOCSIS 3.0.
5. What if you already have newer hardware and you're still seeing less-than-advertised speeds? Then check your network for unauthorized devices that may be stealing your bandwidth.
If you do find Wi-Fi thieves, better kick them off then change your network password quick! Click here to make sure that no one's stealing your Wi-Fi.
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