If you’ve noticed problems with your Internet speed lately, using a simple speed test to measure your Internet connection is a good first step when troubleshooting slow or dropped connections.
Googling the term “Internet speed test” will bring up links to a number of free online speed tests, and you can also find a free Internet connection test here in our Help and How-To Center. This test measures three standard metrics of your Internet connection: download speed, latency, and upload speed.
Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) typically advertise just one metric – download speed, which measures how much data can travel from a remote server to your computer. A high download speed means you can quickly download large datasets, which can include movies, software, or even large print jobs sent from a cloud computing server. The download rate (also known as bandwidth) is typically measured in megabits per second (Mbs or Mbit/s).
But download speed, while important for moving large sets of data to your computer, doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s where two other important measurements come in.
A measurement of the length of time it takes one small packet of data to travel from your computer to a remote server and back again, latency is measured in milliseconds (ms) and can fluctuate at any given time. High latency is considered to be greater than 100ms, and the higher the latency, the longer you must wait to get what you’re requesting from the remote server.
Satellite Internet is known for its high latency, as it has a considerable distance to travel. 3G or 4G connections can also have a higher latency and are not supported.
So how can you tell if you have high latency? One example is when you’re working on applications in the cloud, and it takes a noticeable amount of time for the information you’ve typed on your keyboard to appear on your screen. Another symptom of latency is a dropped connection when using a program like Citrix to connect to a remote server.
Latency can also suffer if a large amount of bandwidth is tied up by others on your network. For instance, if your co-workers are streaming videos and music, even entering a few simple numbers into an online program such as Accounting CS can become quite time-consuming – a good argument for clear, definitive policies on streaming media.
The third metric for measuring an Internet connection is upload speed, which is also measured in megabits per second. A high upload speed is important when you want to send data from your computer to the cloud – for instance, printing locally with the Virtual Office CS FileCabinet CS driver, or when scanning source documents and saving them to a remote server, since scanned images are, in effect, high-quality photos, and the files can be quite large.
Simple online speed tests are a good way to identify a problem, but isolating and correcting Internet speed issues may require outside assistance. If you discover a problem with your Internet speed, first try rebooting your network router and/or modem. If you don’t notice an improvement, contact your network specialist (if you have one), or contact your Internet service provider to determine whether steps such as changing your network hardware or updating your software can correct the problem.