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broadband: Broadband Speed Test

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The Why's and How's of a Broadband Speed Test

For most of us, the antiquated days of dial-up are long gone. Instead, we are constantly utilising websites that provide real-time streaming content which can transmit countless pieces of information per second. While a lagging video may be a mere annoyance for some users, for others who need nearly instantaneous service such as businesses and home-based professionals, a fast broadband connection is critical. Unfortunately, as with many products, what you see may not always be what you get. Let us examine this a bit further.

Most broadband providers offer speeds which vary between 5 and 10 megabytes per second. However, any single ISP address is unlikely to get the top end of this spectrum all of the time. What may be of even greater surprise is that many ISP providers may actually prioritise certain traffic; therefore potentially taking away from the bandwidth and speeds that are assumed to be present. The best way to determine broadband speed is by running a simple and yet effective speed test online. These tests work by sending a very small file from their servers to a target computer. The speed at which this packet of data is sent and received will give the user an accurate picture of the current download speed. Similarly, the computer will then send the same packet back to the host site, therefore giving an idea of the upload speed of the given connection. 

Although online speed tests prove worthwhile for any given time, they should be used in conjunction with software that monitors upload and download speeds independently. This is useful for a number of reasons, the most important being that broadband speeds tend to fluctuate at different times of the day; the evening hours tending to be when slower speeds are encountered. An analogy can be to think of information travelling through to your computer as water entering into your bathroom sink. The more your neighbours are using the same water source, the less pressure (or in this case bits of information) you will receive. This is why it is important to utilise software which has the ability to monitor peak and lag times in broadband speeds throughout the day.

The clear picture that this broadband speed test provides allows for a greater amount of information to be sent back to a current provider rather than a mere complaint regarding upload or download speeds. Also, this information may in fact help them determine if there is any specific problem with the connection or service in the area. A second benefit with these tests is that they give the consumer greater insight and clarity when shopping around for the best providers. Knowing download speeds are essential in choosing the best service available.

Finally, testing broadband speeds can help diagnose potential problems within the computer itself. For instance, if videos and other streaming data seem to be constantly buffering or not even loading at all, one may automatically assume that a slow connection is to blame. However, if the broadband speed test comes back normal, it may signal a problem with current installed software or even malware which may be contained on the hard drive. This can help users correct internal problems before they become even bigger headaches.

So, think of a broadband speed test as a good way to maintain the health of the connection and the computer itself. After all, the first step in avoiding a future problem is realising one exists!