We all want to know what real speed our Internet connection has , know what the upload and download limitations are, if there is a “traffic jam” on the network, etc. That is why we are going to see how the popular speed tests are performed and how these tests work.
What is a speed test?
An Internet connection speed test measures ping and download and upload speeds. The first is a diagnostic utility that checks the status of the network, the connection between our equipment and our Internet service provider (ISP).
Measuring download and upload is important because most ISPs promise speeds of “up to” certain Mbps , but they don’t set the minimum. Sometimes the download and upload speeds are even different: this is what we know as asymmetric connections.
How a speed test actually works?
When we perform a speed test from our computer, our location is determined first , to locate the closest test server. Once the server is located, the service that performs the test sends a signal (the ping) to the server and responds by sending another signal back. This round trip is measured in milliseconds.
After the ping is complete, the download begins. The service opens several connections to the server to download data. All this is to measure, on the one hand, the time it took to download this data and, on the other, the network resources that have been used for this download.
Once the test service verifies that the connections are correct and adequate according to what we have contracted, it downloads more data, measures the amount downloaded in a limited time and the download speed .
Then the load is tested, the data upload . It is basically the same process, but in reverse: sending data from our computer to the server.
How accurate are these tests?
Although everything we have explained so far seems simple, it is actually quite a complex process, with several steps to follow and, depending on all those steps, the accuracy of the measurement will be higher or lower.
An example. The first thing to do when performing a speed test is, as we have said, find a nearby server to send the ping. This is fine, but not all of our connections are always made to nearby servers, so the speed will vary greatly. Therefore, also, we will have different results in each measure: each time a different server is chosen, at a different distance.
Another circumstance that can significantly modify the result of the speed test is that our computer is running other programs or services connected to the network , so the figure will be lower than we would expect.
What to do to correctly measure our Internet speed?
To get the best possible result in speed measurements, the first thing we have to do is forget about WiFi: if we really want to know the speed we have, we should use an Ethernet cable connection.
Second, we should stop all programs that are accessing the Internet. Of course, we must do the same with all the objects in the house: Smart TV, smart speakers, etc.
One last tip: we will restart the router before executing the speed test, so we will clear the navigation cache and we will have an almost pure test.