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Slow Internet Speeds? Try Running A Speedtest.


When you feel that your Internet isn't performing as expected, often the first thing you'll check is a speedtest. There are a number of Internet speed tests available; some of the more commonly mentioned ones are Ookla's https://speedtest.net, Google's Internet speed test (which appears when you simply type "speedtest" into a Google search), DSLReports' http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest, and Netflix's https://fast.com/. All of them provide the same basic information; average latency (measured as milliseconds per round trip, or the time it takes for a single packet to reach the destination and return), download speed, and upload speed. However, there are a few other factors that make some of these sites more useful than others in identifying slow speeds. 


The first of these factors is number and location of test servers. In this category, the Ookla speedtest comes out far ahead, with many community-hosted test servers across the country. We host one such server; to select it prior to running a speedtest, simply click on the blue "Change Server" text and look for "Rosemount, MN - Gigabit Minnesota". Selecting our server will generally give the most accurate results. Google doesn't provide information on the location or number of their test servers, but occasionally will display a warning about high demand and will not allow running tests, which might indicate their infrastructure for the tests isn't quite as robust. DSLReports tests across five servers, which reduces the constraints that can occur when testing to a single server at once. Finally, Netflix operates a network of servers in data centers across the country which cache video content for their streaming service; each one of these servers also functions as a test server for their speedtest, so there will almost always be a nearby test location. 


A second factor is accuracy; the results for any of these tests can vary depending on the connection quality from your computer to the test server, but some tests have been more accurate in our experience. Ookla's speedtest has consistently provided accurate results; this is aided by the ability for ISPs to host their own servers, allowing for consistent results without concerns about congested connections. Netflix and DSLReports' speedtests have also provided consistent results across our testing. Google's tests have been more variable in their results, and may not provide an accurate description of internet speeds.


The last factor covered here is detail. The only one of the discussed tests that stands out in this regard is the DSLReports speedtest, which provides ratings for a number of connection quality factors. The most notable of these is the BufferBloat rating; you can read more about this issue at https://www.bufferbloat.net/projects/, but to paraphrase, some consumer devices can experience latency issues with multiple connected devices. Dealing with this issue is beyond the scope of this post, but further information and possible troubleshooting suggestions are available at bufferbloat.net


As a final note, remember that speedtests should be run from a wired connection if at all possible. Wireless introduces a number of issues and variables that make consistent results unlikely, and will not provide an accurate representation of your Internet connection.



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