How to Read Your Internet Speed Test

graphic of an internet speed test

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Nothing slows down life quite like slow internet. This especially strikes more of a chord today than it would a few decades ago since internet service is now an essential utility. According to Statista Analytics Firm, over 85 percent of Americans have access to the internet. However, this doesn’t mean that access is fast nor reliable. Slow internet occurs often – if not daily.

If you’re experiencing sub-par internet speeds, you’re not alone. Yet, rather than bang on your computer or throw your shoe at your buffering TV, consider running an internet speed test instead. A speed test is the first step to assessing what’s wrong with your connection.

Below, we go into detail about why you should run an internet speed test often, so slow internet doesn’t slow down your life anymore.

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What is an internet speed test?

An internet speed test is the first step needed to find out what’s wrong with your service. Essentially, a speed test is a measurement of how fast your internet is in real-time. You can access this diagnostic test online, and it takes less than one minute to complete. 

When you run a test, you receive current stats on your connection including your download speed, upload speed, ping time, and IP address. These stats help gauge the performance of your current connection and confirm whether or not the speeds you pay for actually hold up.

Typically, internet providers advertise their network’s fastest possible speeds, so don’t be surprised if your test results vary day to day and come in slightly lower. Besides your ISP, additional factors affect your internet experience. But before we discuss those factors, let’s touch on the data measured with speed tests.

Reading Your Speed Test Results

As we mentioned above, an internet speed test is a live measurement of how fast your internet connection is. The results you receive include your download speed, upload speed, and ping time:

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Download Speed

This is a measurement of how fast you can receive data from the internet to your connected device. Online activities like streaming movies or scrolling through social media require download speeds.

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Upload Speed

This is a measure of how fast you can send data from your connected device to the internet. Online activities like posting photos to Instagram or uploading a file to the cloud require upload speeds.

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Ping TIme

A ping is a test to confirm a network server connection by sending a data packet to the server to see if it comes back. If it does, your connection is active. A ping rate is the measure how fasts a data packet travels to a server for testing and back. When it takes more than a few seconds, you will likely experience jitter or buffering in your connection.

Advertised vs Actual Speeds

Remember, internet providers always advertise their network’s fastest speeds, however, people rarely reach full capacity when accessing the internet. In general, your internet test should be at least 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps within range of your top speeds.

Now, if you’re experiencing slow internet and your speed test confirms just as much, there are plenty of reasons why. Below, we list three top reasons for slow internet you may be able to fix before calling your ISP for help.

Reasons for Slow Internet

More times than not, your slow internet connection is likely due to one of these simple issues that are fairly easy to fix on your own.

Equipment Location

The #1 reason for slow internet is equipment location. Similar to a lamp, a router and modem both need space of their own to perform at their peak capacity, so try to avoid placing your router on the floor, near other cords, behind big furniture, or tucked in a corner. It’s best to place your router in the center of your home, on the highest level or furniture perch as WiFi signal travels downward better than upward.

Time Required: 10-15 min

Router Reset

Like our bodies, electronics need regular maintenance and rest to function at peak capacity. Restart your modem and/or router on a regular basis to troubleshoot internet issues and refresh their connections. We recommend doing this monthly by setting a reminder on your phone or using an outlet timer to automate the task.

Time Required: 5 min

Too Many Connected Devices

Each day, your WiFi router determines which devices need bandwidth, pulling excess bandwidth randomly from each to ensure all devices have some active connection. Yet, as you connect more devices to your network, you run the risk of using up all your subscribed bandwidth and overloading your internet equipment. To avoid this, try disconnecting devices throughout the house that are not currently being used to conserve your bandwidth and maximize your internet performance.

Time Required: 5-10 min

Benefits of Running a Speed Test

Since your online activity requires a certain amount of speed to work well, we recommend testing your internet connection regularly to see how it performs over time. We list the main benefits below:

Keep Your Internet Provider in Check

The main reason for running a speed test is keeping your internet provider accountable. While it’s normal for speeds to perform slightly lower than advertised speeds, you should still be within 100 Mbps of your paid plan. If you find that your speeds are consistently too low, this information can help you when contacting your ISP. In some cases, providers will offer discounts, reduced rates, or same-day technician support to resolve your issue. Never pay for poor service if you can help it.

Find the Best Times to Get Online

It’s normal for your speeds to be slow during the evening between 7pm and 11pm. This time is known as “peak hours” because it’s the most popular time for users to access the internet after school or work. In contrast, your speeds may perform faster during early mornings and weekdays when few people are online. The best way to know what time of day results in the fastest speeds is to run a speed test.

Assess Your Internet Speed Needs

Regularly testing your internet connection can help you decide what speeds are right for your lifestyle. If you constantly find yourself slowed down by buffering screens, you may need to upgrade your internet plan to include more bandwidth. As your habits change so will your internet needs.

Upgrade Your Internet Plan

Are you constantly slowed down by your internet connection? Tired of waiting for Netflix to load on movie nights? Have the results of your speed test forced you to ask the question, “What are the best internet providers in my area?” It may be time to upgrade your internet plan. At HighSpeedOptions, we gather the latest deals and plans available near you. To find the right provider for you, enter your zip code below and start shopping for faster internet today!

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Paula Novo
Written By
Paula Novo
Written By
Paula Novo
With over four years of telecom experience, Paula Novo is the Site Editor for HighSpeedOptions. She has helped develop the criteria by which HighSpeedOptions reviews and recommends internet service providers. Paula also leads HighSpeedOptions' coverage of the digital divide, broadband policy, and ISP reviews.