A Complete Guide to Understanding an Internet Speed Test
An Internet speed test is the quickest way to gauge the actual performance of your broadband internet service. And the best part about it is that it’s totally free.
Through a simple Google search, you can easily access many testing sites within seconds. The bulk of which only need you to click on a shiny ‘Test’ or ‘Go’ button.
Things to Know before Performing an Internet Speed Test
The actual exam (in itself) practically takes less than a minute to perform. Although this time depends on your physical distance from the testing server. And before you know it, you have a range of values that tell you exactly ‘what’s what’ about your service.
Armed with this information, you’ll have a better time in asking your ISP for refunds. In the event that the actual service you receive is in some way less than what it promised.
Because no provider can ignore concrete data when it comes recorded from a reputable testing platform.
But to understand the test values and results yourself, you need to brush yourself up on a few basics. In particular, you need to appreciate what:
- Download Speeds
- Upload Speeds
- Ping Rates
Are all about.
These three variables feature commonly in every internet speed test report. And knowing the meaning of each not only helps you in arguing more astutely with your provider’s service reps. It also helps you to determine whether a particular internet plan is the
right choice (for your needs).
So read on below to expand your knowledge base about these concepts.
Because some information truly pays its weight in gold; provided you know how to use it.
Understanding Internet Speeds
Generally speaking, the speed of an internet service hinges on the following criterion:
The time it takes for data to travel from your computer system to the website-hosting server, and back again
Based on this assessment, it is easy to draw two conclusions:
- The less the time is taken for this data-transfer process to occur, the faster the internet speed’s received. And vice versa.
- Internet speed measures are a factor of time (hence the per second ‘/s’ attribute)
Some people use the terms ‘Website Loading’ and ‘Video Streaming’ speeds when they talk about internet speed.
MBps Vs Mbps: A Common Point of Confusion
Internet speeds come in megabits per second (Mbps) – which is a unit of network transfer capacity. Don’t confuse this metric with the similar-reading acronym for megabytes per second (MBps). This is a unit of file storage size. And, 1 byte is equal to 8 bits; if you’ve forgotten this lesson from high school (or didn’t know).
So the higher the ‘Mbps figure’ of your internet service, the better the speeds experienced.
Download speeds concern all the data/information you receive from different website servers on the web. Servers host various forms of website content. Including web pages and their associated multimedia files. When you try to open a website on your device browser, you are actually requesting this content from a hosting server.
The data received can be temporary, as in the case of one-time video streams or website visits. Or stored on your computer disk, as in the case of deliberate file downloads.
Most people are more concerned with their plan download speeds than upload speeds.
This is because they’re interested in surfing the web. Streaming HD videos. And downloading music. Activities that are completely dependent on good download speeds.
Because of this reason, most ISP deals come with higher download than upload speeds. Some new-age fiber-optic services offer symmetrical rates. But plans with greater upload than download speeds are usually hard to find. Due to their limited applicability – except in certain business settings.
Are You Receiving Optimum Internet Speeds?
In practice, most ISP service plans come with the ‘up to X Mbps’ bandwidth speeds caveat. This figure indicates the maximum download speed that you’re promised. And which you should ideally receive.
Performing timely online tests to determine optimum internet speeds is highly recommended. To ensure that this is always the case.
Because if your test results state otherwise, it may be a good time to ring up your provider and have a detailed talk. Possibly with some mention of a refund. And (if you must) a suggestion that you may migrate to another vendor’s services.
This is the rate at which data transfers from your computer to the network server.
Having a good upload speed becomes important when you’re interested in a lot of emailing, video/voice conferencing and gaming tasks. Or, when you want to engage in a lot of important file sharing.
This value is also referred to as the ‘Network Latency’ rate, and it is very consequential for avid gamers.
Ping rates more holistically measure the time it takes (in milliseconds – ms) for data to reach from your system to the network testing server. And back again.
In doing so, they give you a more exact idea about the net speed of your connection.
A lower ping rate is great.
Anything above the 100 ms mark, in contrast, can result in a noticeable speed lag.
Your Internet Speed Requirement…
Largely depends upon these two considerations:
- Your Primary Service Concern (casual surfing, video streaming, or gaming?)
- The Number of Devices you Plan to Use Simultaneously
For a basic idea about the downloading speeds that you’ll need, consider this general guideline:
- 1 Mbps – Good for Compressed Music Streaming (MP3/AAC), SQ Video Streaming
- 5 Mbps – HD (720p) Video Streaming
- 10 Mbps – Full HD (1080p) Video Streaming with High-Definition Audio
- 25 Mbps – Ultra HD and 4K Video Streaming
Please note that this guide assumes that you’re only going to use one device on a particular connection. When engaged in any of these common online activities.
What Can Come After an Internet Speed Test
Your optimum internet speed test results will determine your next course of action.
If you’re getting the speeds that you bargained for from your provider, then you’re good to go. Especially if they fulfill all your internet requirements smoothly.
But a poor test result may come through one or more of the following issues:
- Old Modem/Router Equipment
- Bad Router Placement
- Device Interference (especially from Microwaves)
- Multiple Users Weighing Down on Your Home Connection
- A Plan with a Lower Speed Rating (time to Upgrade!)
Consider these Remedies
If your router is old, consider purchasing a high-end Dual-Band (2.4/5 GHz) model. These newer routers make getting optimum internet speeds on your home network a reality. They do this by streamlining bandwidth between your router and connected devices.
In case of bad router placement, consider changing device location. Alternatively, make sure that there isn’t any hardware interference causing your speed lags. Microwaves are a common culprit in this respect. Limiting any wall barriers between your router and streaming devices is also a good idea.
Multiple users can really bog down your connection speeds. Especially when you’re using a video streaming service like Netflix or YouTube. To check this problem, you can limit the number of connections allowed on your network. Several WiFi modems and routers provide this option through their inbuilt software interface.
Other Options – WiFi Mesh Networks and Extenders
For a home setting with only:
- One network connection
- And multiple internet users
Consider using WiFi Mesh Networks or Extenders. These devices are nowadays readily available. From the same hardware manufacturers that produce modem and router gadgetry.
In this way, you can greatly optimize the performance of your domestic hotspot at a reasonable cost. And ensure that every device in your house gets to receive the same quality of bandwidth.
See if your device models support WPS, as these types are easier to set up and run.
Consider a Service Upgrade
If none of these remedies seem to work in your case, then it may be time to upgrade to a faster internet service.
In the U.S, you can easily take your pick from over 2600 different providers, and choose from:
- Mobile LTE
At present, fiber-optic services offer some of the highest download & upload speed rates. Often up to 2000 Mbps (2 Gbps)! But fiber coverage is only available in a few urban localities within the country. So, you may not be able to subscribe to such connections in your area.
On the other hand, cable is fast becoming a ‘traditional favorite’ in most American households. Largely because of its easy accessibility paired off with decent services delivery. Cable connections are also very malleable. And it is not uncommon to find people subscribed to ‘bundle’ packages through them. These kinds of offers pair internet, TV and phone services in one connection at cheap monthly rates.
DSL services are still used by many people in areas where cable and fiber services are not easily available. They are usually a better subscription option than satellite.
Satellite connections generally offer slower bandwidth speeds than the other network routes discussed. But they provide the largest service coverage area – with unparalleled wireless freedom. Except in those locations where natural weather conditions are not favorable. Areas with a lot of cloud cover and thunderstorms risk, for instance.
Sign Up for the Cox Internet Speeds Advantage
If you’re fed up with the slow speeds on your existing connection, then consider the Cox internet speeds advantage. With this offer, you can enjoy blazing downloading speeds up to a whopping 1000 Mbps. Along with up to 35 Mbps in uploading speeds.
Enough to power up an entire apartment building, or large-sized family home!
Check Out Frontier Internet Speeds
Through the company’s FiOS deal, you can attain Frontier internet speeds up to 500 Mbps. These come in a symmetrical service arrangement. Which means that both downloading & uploading speeds can reach this upper-speed ceiling.
Perfect for people stuck with work-from-home obligations.
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