By Art Reisman
Art Reisman is currently CTO and co-founder of NetEqualizer.
Imagine if every time you went to a gas station the meters were adjusted to exaggerate the amount of fuel pumped, or the gas contained inert additives. Most consumers count on the fact that state and federal regulators monitor your local gas station to ensure that a gallon is a gallon and the fuel is not a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol. But in the United States, there are no rules governing truth in bandwidth claims. At least none that we are aware of.
Given there is no standard in regulating Internet speed, it’s up to the consumer to take the extra steps to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. In the past, we’ve offered some tips both on speeding up your Internet connection as well as questions you should ask your provider. Here are some additional tips on how to fairly test your Internet speed.
1. Use a speed test site that mimics the way you actually access the Internet.
Using a popular speed test tool is too predictable, and your Internet provider knows this. In other words, they can optimize their service to show great results when you use a standard speed test site. To get a better measure of you speed, your test must be unpredictable. Think of a movie star going to the Oscars. With time to plan, they are always going to look their best. But the candid pictures captured by the tabloids never show quite as well.
To get a candid picture of your providers true throughput, we suggest using a tool such as the speed test utility from M-Lab.
2. Try a very large download to see if your speed is sustained.
We suggest downloading a full Knoppix CD. Most download utilities will give you a status bar on the speed of your download. Watch the download speed over the course of the download and see if the speed backs off after a while.
Some providers will start slowing your speed after a certain amount of data is passed in a short period, so the larger the file in the test the better. The common speed test sites likely do not use large enough downloads to trigger a slower download speed enforced by your provider.
3. If you must use a standard speed test site, make sure to repeat your tests with at least three different speed test sites.
Different speed test sites use different methods for passing data and results will vary.
4. Run your tests during busy hours — typically between 5 and 9 p.m. — and try running them at different times.
Often times IPs have trouble providing their top advertised speeds during busy hours.
5. Make sure to shut off other activities that use the Internet when you test.
This includes other computers in your house, not just the computer you are testing from.
All the computers in your house share the same Internet pipe to your provider. If somebody is watching a Netflix movie while you run your test, the movie stream will skew your results.
Created by APconnections, the NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology dynamically and automatically gives priority to latency sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. Click here for a full price list.