The Internet is an essential part of our daily activities, at home and at work, writes Calvin Collett, CEO at iConnect Telecoms.
As a result, the performance of your Internet connection can significantly affect productivity and impact leisure activities such as streaming movies and music. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are inclined to make claims about upload and download speeds when consumers and/or businesses sign up for a service, nevertheless in many instances, users make use of ‘speed tests’ to check or validate these claims.
Through the help of a browser-based speed test, individuals can determine the connection speeds, as well as identify other issues with your network such as latency issues, or physical connection problems. Then again, do these speed tests provide Internet users with an accurate reading?
What impacts a speed test?
The speed that ISPs promise should be the speed customers receive and a speed test is one way to see if the individual is getting what they pay for. However, there are a number of factors which could negatively impact the results you get from a speed test, leaving you thinking you’re not getting the speed you were promised when, in fact, you may very well be.
When doing a speed test, it is important to ensure that no one that has access to the network is actively using the service, or the results will be impacted. For instance, if someone is streaming internet television, or a colleague is downloading a large file, for example, the test results won’t be accurate and will show a lesser speed. If possible, one should do the test when they are positive no one else is using the network at the same time.
Similarly, if the service is highly contended (shared with other users), peak use times can also impact speed. A high contention ratio means that an accurate speed test reading is unlikely unless you are the only person currently using the service. People need to start considering the terms and conditions of the service they choose to make sure that the contention ratio does not impact the speed and performance of the service.
Speed test results can also be swayed by the confines of consumer’s own hardware. If a service is offering a higher speed than the hardware is capable of handling, one will only see the speed of the device and not of the actual network, or service. For example, if your WiFi router is only capable of delivering a 5Mbps connection but you are paying for a 10Mbps service, you will only see a speed of 5Mbps, as the connection will bottleneck at the WiFi router. It is important to make sure the hardware can support the speed of the service.
Finally, the type of speed test chosen also plays a significant part in the results achieved. A speed test that is offered by a small, independent ISP is generally reliant on its own network to provide results, therefore it is limited by its own network as well. Add to this that if a lot of people are doing speed tests at the same time, the servers may not be as responsive and may provide you with slower results and, therefore, slower speeds. For example, if a speed test server only has capacity for 20 simultaneous tests, but 50 people decide to do a speed test at the same time, your results will not be accurate.
So how do I use a speed test for best accuracy?
Users should consider speed tests that offer multiple test server locations, more detailed connection information, comparison tools, and well-designed user interfaces. Usually, speed tests that are carrier neutral provide the most accurate results.
It is also important that users conduct multiple tests and draw an average from them. As mentioned above, factors such as the number of users or simultaneous testers at any given time, plus the impact of traffic on the speed testers own network, can provide individuals with inaccurate results. An average drawn from multiple tests are more likely to show accurate results.
Don’t be afraid to challenge your service provider. Once the speed test has been taken and the results to not match up with the T&C’s in the contract, contact them. However, it is recommended that you conduct multiple speed tests from a number of reputable carrier neutral speed test sites to get an average. If the speeds are still not amounting to what is paid for, have an honest chat with your ISP. It may be time for a change.