How to accurately measure your Internet connection speed

Internet Speed tests are a great way to ensure you are getting the right amount of bandwidth from your ISP. However, many specialists have discovered that speed tests are too often incorrect. These inaccuracies are generally induced by an overlooked detail, like a poorly placed router. This post describes how speed tests actually work and describe little details to get more reliable results.

How do speed tests work?

Before we drill in, let’s learn some foundational information. First, how does a speed test, the one like Speedcheck measure your Internet connection speed? The speed testing sites can measure the upload, download, and ping by using their algorithm, which determines how to best test your speed. Without all the technicalities, speed test sites roughly work like this:

  1. The system would start by examining your IP address to get your estimated location.
  2. It then locates some of its testing servers that are closest to you.
  3. Once that is done, a test is run to determine which is the closest server to you, not based on distance but on a ping test result. Then, data packets are sent from your device to the nearest server and then back again.
  4. Based on the response received for the testing server(in the form of data packets sent and received), the speed test results are displayed.

Why do different sites show different speed results?

This is because of many variables:

1. When you run a speed test, you launch it from your device (be it a PC or a mobile, or a tablet). The test instruction is run via your home network, then onto your router to the ISP, and finally out onto the testing server. While you are examining your speed, your network is actively serving all the devices connected to your router. Therefore, you will get different results if it’s just you on the network versus the entire family on the network streaming/ backing up to the cloud.

2. Your ISP could be shaping or throttling your bandwidth. This means that they give preference to some traffic like web browsing but lower priority to things like games and streaming. Here is how you test if your ISP is throttling your bandwidth.

3. Each speed test site calculates its speed based on its algorithm. These could include server load, number of connections at the time of testing, architecture, network distance, size of data to upload/ download, and more. Therefore no two testing sites are going to provide the same results.

4. Speed tests seem simple, but it’s much harder than it might appear to measure the speed of your connection accurately. Consider the second step of the process: choosing a test server. Sometimes the closest server might be incredibly close—possibly even in the same city. That proximity is an optimal location, so the data doesn’t have as far to travel. Big Corporations know that proximity makes a huge difference, and that’s why they use a CDN to bring the data closer to you.

But the entire internet isn’t close to you—much of the servers far away—sometimes across the country or in another country. So, while your speed test may show high-speed, you might observe that downloading a program is relatively slow if the server hosting the data is far away. In that situation, your results may indicate a faster performance than your real-world usage.

How to Get Accurate Speed Test Results

Getting reliable test results depends on what you aim to measure. Do you need to see if your ISP is genuinely giving the speeds it guaranteed? Then, go for optimal provisions. Use an Ethernet-connected device, choose the test server most nearby to you, and stop anything that might be utilizing the bandwidth (like a video streaming service Netflix).

Restarting your router before performing the test also helps to get closer to reliable tests. If your router has a built-in speed test, use that preferably over a browser test. Doing so eliminates some of the hoops the testing procedure has to plunge through.

However, if you want speed test results closer to real-world performance, use an app or browser test. Avoiding the router test should let you pick a testing server farther away. If you regularly have video stream going, start that before starting the internet speed test.

Eventually, no matter which measures you take or how you test, you won’t get a completely accurate outcome. However, you can get a close enough result to either satisfy your concern or check in on the speeds promised by your Internet provider.

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