You’ve recently started working from home and have switched internet providers in an effort to get faster internet for your home office. However, it’s been a week since you made the change and you still don’t notice any difference. Do you actually have faster internet? How can you tell?
Conduct an internet speed test. These tests are free and you can run them as many times as you want. However, before you get started, let’s look at where to go and how to accurately interpret your internet speed test results.
How to Test Your Connection
Most internet service providers (ISP) have speed tests built in. For example, if you are a Comcast customer, then you can use the Comcast speed test to check your connection. However, like most other ISPs that offer speed tests, Comcast likely prioritizes Comcast internet speed tests in their servers to get the best results. In other words, you can’t trust your ISP to give you the most accurate reading.
Instead, consider one of these other free (and unaffiliated) speed tests. We went ahead and ran one of our computers through these tests to provide you with sample results.
- Ping = 62ms
- Download Speed = 71.52mbps
- Upload Speed = 12.04mbps
- Download Speed = 48.63 mbps
- Upload Speed = 12.56 mbps
Google Speed Test
- Latency (ping) = 110ms
- Download Speed = 59.2mpbs
- Upload Speed = 11.8mbps
Understanding the Results
Great, now we have some numbers. But what do they really mean?
First of all, know that mbps stands for megabits per second. This is how internet speeds are typically measured. A standard broadband internet connection gets speeds around 20-30mbps for downloads and 3-5mbps for uploads. The internet speeds shared above are considered very fast.
Next, let’s look at “ping” or “latency.” Not all internet speed tests include this information. We’ll talk a little more about what the “ping” is below. For now, just know that latency is measured in ms (milliseconds) and good performance latency would be somewhere under 100ms.
How Internet Speed Tests Work
Now we have some numbers and a general idea of where they fall on the spectrum of high speed internet. But why are these numbers indicative of internet speed? Who cares about download and upload speeds if all you want is to binge watch your favorite show on Hulu?
First of all, every time you access the internet, you are downloading. When you “load” a webpage, you are downloading it. When you stream a video, you are downloading it. Sure, it’s not getting copied to your computer and saved in a download file, but it is downloading to your browser. Next time you go to YouTube, look at that little bar that begins to fill up when you play a video. Let’s say you pause the video and let the bar finish filling. You’ve now downloaded the video to your browser. If you lose internet connection in that moment, you can still finish the video. However, it disappears when you navigate away from that page.
Internet speeds tests, including that speed test Comcast provides, work by downloading a small binary file to your computer with instructions to upload it back to the test. That’s how it measures download and upload speeds. Latency, when included, involves “pinging” the speed test’s server and seeing how long it takes to get a response.
Things to Keep in Mind
You’ll notice that our tests did not all come back with the same numbers. This is partly because the tests are different, with servers located in different areas, and partly because internet speeds naturally fluctuate. If we were to run the same tests again in the same programs, we’d likely have a whole new set of results.
Internet speed tests can be affected by a variety of factors, including:
- Physical proximity of your computer to the speed test’s servers.
- Any other programs you might have running on your connection whether from your machine or a different one.
- The age of your computer hardware and whether you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
For the most accurate results, make sure nothing else is running, clear your browser’s cache, and restart your computer. Even then, take these results with a grain of salt and remember that the most important thing is that you’re satisfied with your internet service. If you're not, we can help you lower internet your bills, so you aren't paying too much for a service you don't love.