Last modified on February 15, 2017
We’re here to shed some light on not only how to test your internet speed, but more importantly, what it all means. Hint: Before blaming your internet provider, you should have us take a look first. You want proof before they give you the runaround.
What Is Internet Speed Anyway?
Let’s think of internet speed like water pressure in a pipe. If you have a teeny tiny pipe, there’s only so much water that can fit through it at any given time. The bigger the pipe, the more water you can get through it at once. Your internet is no different. The bigger the pipe, the faster you can gobble up all of those Netflix videos and cat pictures.
In today’s day and age internet speed is commonly measured in Mbps, which is megabits per second, and normally you’re only evaluating your download speed. This is commonly mistaken with bytes per second, which is just another recognizable unit of measurement. We’re going to steer clear of being overly technical in this article, so let’s just leave it at bits are different than bytes, but they’re sorta close, but definitely not the same.
Checking Your Speed
Why would you ever want to check your internet speed? The number one reason people check their internet speed is to make sure they’re getting what they pay for from their internet provider. The other popular reason is to troubleshoot a potential problem with their connection, like stuttering video or websites that get stuck loading.
There are websites and smartphone apps like SpeedTest.net that are dedicated to telling you how fast you can download and upload things. More times than not, SpeedTest will tell you you’re getting great speeds! You get one guess as to why… Yep, that’s right. They peer directly with your internet provider. SpeedTest stations are setup right inside your provider’s network and they make darn sure you get ultra high priority to those stations when you run a test. It makes the cable company look good, after all.
So, if you can’t trust the SpeedTest sites, how can we get an accurate measurement? Look no further than who the cable companies are at war with. Netflix. Netflix is stealing cable TV subscribers by the droves. Netflix accounts for nearly 35% of ALL data transferred on the internet in the US and the cable companies are pretty cranky about it. They’ve been caught throttling or otherwise impeding Netflix services because they’d rather you give up on Netflix and watch cable television instead. So, what does all of this have to do with checking your speed? The good folks over at Netflix setup a very convenient speed checking tool called FAST.COM. Fast.com is a no frills, all results internet speed test. Simply punch fast.com into your browser on your desktop, phone, wherever, and you’ll get instant, unbiased results.
What Speed Do I Want?
The answer to this question unfortunately is… it depends. One of the first questions is what speed are you paying for? Your internet providers like to make this question tricky to get answered too. They’ll call their internet services tiers things like “Blast” or “Premier” without telling you the actual speed. Not to mention, unless you have some fancy pants internet for rich people with a guaranteed SLA, you’re receiving what is called “Best Effort” which means they can really provide whatever speed they’d like, whenever they’d like. So, let’s say you discover you’re paying for 50Mbps service… then the answer is clear… you want to get 50Mbps service because that’s what you’re paying for.
Is that what you need though? For most people, 50Mbps is much more than what’s needed. To put things in perspective, an HD stream from Netflix or HBO Go with full surround sound on your 110″ projector screen in your sweet home theater will require approximately 5-8Mbps. With 50Mbps service, you can easily have four of those super duper streams going at once and be well within your means.
Where It Gets Complicated
Your internet speed is not completely your internet provider’s responsibility. As a matter of fact, most internet speed issues have nothing to do with your internet provider. The vast majority of internet speed issues are the result of bad consumer networking equipment like wireless routers. The market is flooded with junky wired and wireless gear that is both unreliable and poor performing. Combine that with being setup incorrectly to begin with, and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster.
The internet speed you get in your bedroom might not be the same speed you get in the living room. You might have perfect signal in the kitchen, but zero signal in the garage. Your connection might get erratic when the rest of the family is home and on their laptops and mobile devices. Your computer might be backing up some files and your kids all of a sudden can’t stream anything on Netflix.
All of these issues are something you should hire a professional to diagnose and come up with a solution for. Sure, it could be your internet provider, but before you waste your time going down that rabbit hole and runaround, it will help to have a professional in your corner with proof.
How to Uncomplicate It
In conclusion, we’ll leave you with these pieces of advice:
1) Don’t blame your internet provider…yet
2) Don’t start buying and replacing equipment. Especially range extenders and repeaters!
3) Hire someone to give you an unbiased diagnosis.
Contact Us to set up an appointment and we will get your internet blazing fast.