Testing Your Internet Speed
Using a Speed Test to Get the Best Results
Testing your Internet performance and understanding the general health of your Internet connection is a good thing to do from time to time. The most common way to do this is by running what is known as a speed test.
Speed tests are a great tool, but there are several things to keep in mind when using them. We will cover the best way to run a speed test in this document, as well as discuss some of their pitfalls.
What is a Speed Test?
A speed test is a web service that provides free analysis of Internet performance metrics, such as connection data rates for upload and download, latency and jitter. There are dozens of speed tests on the Internet, and they all produce different results. The reasons why are plentiful, but it’s important to know that all speed tests are not equal.
Tip: It is easy to go completely mad if you try to match speed tests from site to site. We advise picking one service and sticking with it to build a relative baseline over time.
One of the most popular speed tests on the web is speedtest.net, owned and powered by Seattle-based Ookla. You can find their site at:
What a Speed Test Measures
So what does a speed test measure? There are three numbers that this speed test returns, but people most commonly only care about two – download and upload speeds. Here is a quick definition of each to satisfy the curious:
Upload Speed: Upload speed is how fast you send data from your computer to others. Uploading is necessary for sending big files via email, or in using video-chat to talk to someone else online (since you have to send your video feed to them). Upload speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Download Speed: The download speed is how fast you can pull data from the Internet down to your computer. Most Internet connections are designed to download much faster than they upload, since the majority of online activity, like loading web pages or streaming videos, consists of downloads. Download speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Ping: Ping is the reaction time of your connection–how fast you get a response after you’ve sent out a request. A fast ping means a more responsive connection, especially in applications where timing is everything (like video games). Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms).
How to Get an Accurate Test
One of the biggest pitfalls to measuring speed can be narrowed down to one important thing – the connection method of your test device. It is essential to run your speed test by connecting directly into your modem from your computer via a properly working Ethernet cable, with your Wi-Fi turned completely off.
We have customers calling all the time reporting that they are seeing diminished service. Once we ask them which device they are using to run their speed test, it usually ends up being a wireless device. Speed test will always be lower over Wi-Fi than being wired at the modem. Wi-Fi signal varies wildly depending on factors like your distance from your modem, what type of material in the walls between you and the modem, how many other wireless users are on your network, and what are they doing, if you are on another floor then where your modem sits, how old your test device is, and so on.
Tip: connect your test device directly into your modem via an Ethernet cable. Be sure to turn your Wi-Fi off.
One of the biggest pitfalls to measuring speed can be narrowed down to one simple thing: are you running your test plugged into your modem or not? Here is how you can set yourself up for the most accurate test possible.
Step 1. Connect an Ethernet cable to the back of your modem in one of the Ethernet ports.
Step 2. Connect your computer to the other side of your Ethernet cable so it is directly connected to your modem.
Step 3. Turn your Wi-Fi off on your test device. This is a very important step! Turning off your Wi-Fi will ensure that your test results come from your Ethernet connection and not your local Wi-Fi.
Step 4. Log onto http://www.speedtest.net and click the big “GO” button.
Step 5. Check your results to make sure your upload and download speed look.
That’s it! If you see variation in running multiple speed tests in a row, know that a small variance in numbers is expected. If you see a wild swing in your results, be sure to go through the steps outlined above, and if you have done all the above correctly, give us a call and we can help you work through any issues you find.