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Speed Tests

Friday, July 7th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet
 
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Q:
Is there any way I can check the speed of my DSL Internet connection? I’m just curious to know how quick it is.

A:
That’s a very interesting question and I’m glad you asked. As we all know, dial-up is being phased out (although, there are several of you who still use it, which is fine!) and broadband connections are taking over the Internet world. So, as we all have faster connections, our curiosity may just get the best of us in knowing how fast it really is. Because of this, there are different speed tests users can take to find out how quick their connection runs. If you’re interested in learning more about this, keep reading!

As I said before, there are a variety of different speed tests that are available for anyone to take. Your operating system may have a test built right into the Control Panel, but these honestly aren’t very accurate. Some software companies even offer certain programs like these to monitor your speed, but again, these are sometimes demos, so you only get a limited version of it. So, the next option is to just use the Internet to find a speed test. Many Web sites have speed tests that users can take and most of them are different, so you can find a specific one that works best for you.

Speed tests work by having your computer download a large file (either a picture or a large document) to see how long it takes for the download to complete. The test times your computer and then divides the file size by the time it took to download to come up with your connection speed. That’s pretty much all there is to that.

To find a speed test, do a quick search in Google (or whatever your favorite search engine is) and see what you can come up with. For example, I entered ” DSL speed tests” in the search box and it came up with several test choices. I was pretty impressed! Once you get your results back, take some time and look through the different options and find the one that will carry out the tasks you want done.

Now, you may be wondering what a good test result is. This obviously depends on several different factors, but most consider a reading of 150 kbps (kilobits per second) and up to be a good result. Obviously, speeds will be slower if you test your bandwidth between the peak hours of the day (late afternoon and evening) because of the extra Internet usage, so it’s better to test in the early morning or really late at night.

The next thing you might be wondering about is the actual reliability of a speed test. Do they really work? Well, they seem to be pretty reliable, but there are some downsides to it as well. With broadband connections, speeds are constantly changing, so it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what your speed actually is. If you’re not happy with the results you get, you may want to try running the test three or four times to get an average speed that you can be satisfied with.

After reading all of this, you may still be wondering why you should test your speed. Well, the main reason you should perform regular speed tests is to find out when your computer’s connection speed is the fastest. You can then use those times to download large files or get an extra amount of work done, without interruptions or hesitations. Also, if you are having connection problems, you can use a speed test to find out if it’s your computer or the connection that is slowing you down. It’s a type of troubleshooting in that aspect. And if you are just a speed maniac, you can compare your speed with other services and see which one suits you the best.

One last thing: keep in mind that sometimes your test results will be lower than you’d really like. The main reason for this is that you may have done a test during a slow time or even during a down time, which will altar your results. These times are usually caused by maintenance work or damaged lines. When this happens, just be patient and try it again later.

Happy testing!

~ Erin

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