This is something we can both agree on:
A slow Internet connection sucks.
We use the Internet a lot. A whole lot, CNN reports. In 2016, the average American devoted more than 10 hours a day to screen time (computers and phones) and that number is sure to increase in the future. And think for a second: how much time is spent waiting for a page to load or a file to download?
Whether you're an online shopper, a gamer, a YouTube producer, an entrepreneur, or just browsing the web, a slow Internet connection can only lead to a bad time.
In this article, I'm going to discuss what causes a slow Internet connection, urge you to take an Internet speed test, and then explain what is a good download and upload speed.
In This Guide
What Causes Slow Connection Speeds?
If you notice a lag when trying to download or upload content, there could be a wide variety of factors that influence performance. Below is a look at some of them:
The type of internet service you have can play a huge role in how fast you can access content. To illustrate, if you use dial-up internet service, you won't receive the same internet download speed as your would with a broadband internet connection.
Additionally, if you want faster speeds in general, you should try to get fiber optic internet, as it delivers the best reliability thanks to the fiber optic cable. Moreover, if the Google fiber internet isn't available in your area, you can still opt for fast speeds through a broadband connection. Check with your broadband service provider to find the fastest plan offered.
The amount of traffic online influences how fast you can access content. If the network experience has many users at one time or people demanding larger content files by way of online gaming or live streaming, you could experience network latency.
In some instances, your internet service provider might throttle your speed during peak hours, or times of congestion, in order to handle the strain. This is typical for most cable Internet providers, and peak hours tend to happen around dinner time and into the evening.
Distance From Server
The further your device is from the server, the longer time it takes to transfer files. In reality, files won't take that much longer to download if your computer is far from your router, WiFi port, or mobile hotspot. The root cause is that the farther your device is from your router, the more likely there are obstacles in the way to hinder the signal. The solution lies in an ethernet cable to ensure a strong hard-wire connection to your router, or a WiFi extender.
How Do I Do a Speed Test?
There are many online resources that allow you to conduct a speed test on your internet connection. Here are some resources as well as how to use them:
Bandwidth Place is a simple way to test your internet connection speeds. You do this by:
- First, visiting its website at www.bandwidthplace.com.
- Next, you click on the start button, which activates the test.
- Upon completion, you'll see your download and upload speeds, as well as the ping as illustrated by the picture below:
Speedtest.net by Ookla is a great way to measure your upload and download speeds whether you are at home or on the go. If you are using a mobile device, you can test your connection by:
- Going to the app store and downloading the "Speedtest by Ookla" app.
- Once downloaded, open the app and press on the test tab.
- The app conducts the test in 30 seconds.
- Upon completion, you'll see test results similar to the picture below:
An added benefit of this app is it will save your test results. This allows you to establish a pattern of connection speeds over time. If they are well below what your internet service provider is charging you for, then you should contact them.
Whether you use a mobile device or are connecting your computer by way of ethernet cable and cable modem, you can use DSLReports to conduct a speed test. To do this, you'll want to:
- Visit www.dslreports.com
- Follow the prompts to start the test.
- The test takes approximately 45 seconds to run.
- Upon completion, you will see your results. They should display similar to the picture below:
Why is it Important to Do a Speed Test?
If you are like most, you are paying monthly for internet access. As part of that fee, your internet service provider offers you specified speeds. If they are not living up to their end of the bargain, and you have documented evidence from speed tests like the ones above, it can prompt the ISP to do research to see what network problems exist on their end.
Related: More info on Internet speed tests.
What is a Good Download Speed?
Simply put, your device's download speed is how fast it takes for you to access data requested from a website. Whether you do online gaming, listen to music or are needing to access to files for research, the time it takes to transfer these files to your device is your download speed.
Download speed can be affected for a number of reasons, so don't be alarmed if you're download speed is severely below the average. If it is, you might want to upgrade to a new plan or provider. Remember that download speed can be hindered by the distance to the server and router, your Internet provider and package, and when you go online.
And if your download speed is way above average, good for you!
What is a Good Upload Speed?
Conversely, if you want to send files to other users, apply pictures to your social media profiles or post a video to a website, you want a fast upload speed. Your device's upload speed is how fast the transfer takes from your device to the website you want to upload the content to.
What you'll notice when conducting a speed test is that many internet service providers offer faster download speeds than upload. To illustrate, while it isn't uncommon to receive download connection speeds of 50 Mbps or more, upload speeds are only a fraction of that.
The reason there's such a difference between download and upload speed concerns user preferences. Since the majority of users spend more time downloading items, high-speed internet providers provide faster download speeds to accommodate this need.
To make sure you are receiving a good deal on your internet service, it's important to check what its upload and download speeds are. You can use a speed test to determine how fast your download and upload speeds are, your latency, ping, IP address, and more.
Overall, testing your download and upload speeds are good for several reasons. One, they can help you identify problems in connection speeds with the ISP, which you can bring to their attention, and two, it can demonstrate problems on your end. If you have slow connection speeds, it could be due to a number of issues such as network congestion, malware and more.
Having a reliable internet connection is important, as you want to receive your money's worth for service. To this end, be sure to use our guide on the best Internet providers.