Are You Getting All the Speed You are Paying For?

We have all gotten annoyed at the internet from time to time.  It just seems to run slow.  My downloads aren’t fast enough.  This page is taking forever to load…  But is this a problem with your computer, your internet service, or the site you are surfing?  How do you tell?

There are a number of sites on the internet that will test the speed of your connection.  Go to your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, MSN, etc.) and enter ‘speed test’.  You can run the test over several of these sites and get an average.  They will give you a pretty good indication of both the download and upload speed of your internet connection.  Generally, your upload speed will be a fraction of your download speed.  This is usually fine unless you are hosting your own internet site.   We spend much more time downloading than uploading.

The type of service can greatly influence your speed as well.  Cable internet services are usually shared connections.  This is why they advertise speeds up to…  A cable company may allocate a certain bandwidth to a neighborhood, limiting your individual speed through the firmware in the router.   If your area is mainly residential, you may get better performance early in the morning or in the middle of the day when most people are at work.  You may notice (depending on the population of your area) that as soon as the kids get home from school your performance drops.  This is because you are all sharing the available bandwidth.  The internet becomes much like the highway during rush hour.  You should have better results for your business if your area is mainly businesses.

DSL type services, T-1, and T-3 lines on the other hand, promise dedicated bandwidth.  If you are paying for 10 Mbps service, you should always test at that level.  AT&T’s UVerse service is a DSL type service that is popular with small business.

So you have tested the speed.  If it is not within the range you have contracted, you need to contact your provider to come out and diagnose your problem.  If it is within that range, we need to look elsewhere.  The first place to check is your own computer.  Is it just the internet that is slow, or has the system’s total performance suffered?

If it is just internet performance the culprit may be your browser’s add-ons.  Add-ons are small programs that run with your browser.  Things like flash and java help interpret features on webpages.  Others like many of the toolbars, eat up parts of your bandwidth.  If you go to your browser settings (that sprocket looking thing), and click on internet options.  Go to the programs tab and about a third of the way down the window you will see ‘manage add-ons’.  Here you will be able to see the list of programs that run in the background with your browser.  A huge list can explain your slow performance.  Disable all the add-on toolbars.  Close the options window and try to surf.  If your performance is greatly improved, you have your culprit.

The other item to consider is the sites you are accessing.  You may have a 50 Mbps connection to the internet, but if the site you are accessing is on a host with a 10 Mbps connection that is the best you will do.  And if there are 100 people on the site at the same time, the performance is degraded further.

So the next time you notice your internet speeds seem to be slow, don’t just cuss out your Internet Service Provider.  Do a little testing and make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

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