When we get broadband, we tend to go for companies that we know and packages that we feel rather than know are correct for us. Not many of us went through a proper sourcing process and often we bought off the headline rates rather than buying a package based on the fine.
This article will look at the ways in which we can ascertain whether our current package is wrong for us so that we can know when we should leave. We’ll also begin by looking at how I check broadband speed in order to understand the performance of my connection.
How I Check Broadband Speed
Checking your broadband speed provides you with the ability to understand the level of performance of your connection in different parts of your home and when connected through an Ethernet cable.
I test broadband speed by jumping on to a website called Speedtest.net. I chose this website because it tests based on a server close to me and it provides a good user interface with a clear graphical display.
All I have to do is click begin and within 45 seconds I see my ping speed, my download speed, and then my upload speed. I check my broadband speed regularly so that I can understand what level of connection I’m getting and whether I’m seeing a deterioration in performance.
I also check my broadband speed at different times of the day and week, so that I can make sure that contention ratios, the number of people on the line at any one time, and traffic management are not impacting my broadband experience.
Indeed, this is the first way to know whether your broadband is correct for you. If you’re seeing underperformance on a regular basis, then it may be time for a change, but it really should be down to whether you can complete your everyday activities or not.
Speed May Be Of the Essence
When you bought a broadband package you were probably sold an up to speed on ADSL. This up to speed may have been up to 24mbps up to 16mbps, or even on some providers such as AOL up to 8mbps. This up to speed is the top level speed of the package and therefore, you’re unlikely to receive the speed. However, if you’re getting a half or two thirds of your up to speed, that is a issue but it doesn’t mean that you should necessarily look to move your contract and that your internet package is wrong for you.
If you’re able to do activities such as streaming high definition movies, online gaming, watching YouTube, downloading emails, social networking, and everything that you want to do, then inherently the speed and performance is right for you, and then there’s other considerations you should look at.
If you find your experience limited in any of your activities, then perhaps an upgrade may be the way forward, but of course it is down to what technology and what providers are servicing your area. If you can get Virgin fibre optic broadband you’re pretty much guaranteed faster speeds than on any ADSL, or any other fibre optic broadband connection, but it is down to whether you can get it.
Your Data Allowances
One of the primary ways of knowing whether your package is right for you is by seeing if you are over using your data. If you constantly find yourself monitoring the amount of data you’ve used half way through the month, you probably should be looking for an upgrade.
This would signal that you don’t have enough data and that you’re worried about over consumption. Indeed, if you find yourself over consuming you may be charged extra fees. BT internet charge an extra £5 per 5 GB for data you consume above their limited packages.
If you are continuall finding yourself paying extra it may be that you need to bite the bullet and go for an unlimited package, and it may even save you money based on the reduction in overall costs from extra fees. Some good unlimited providers include BE broadband, Sky broadband, and BT broadband on their broadband unlimited packages.
Of course, many unlimited providers actually have fair usage caps on their policies which restrict the amount of data you can consume. So do ensure you understand the different policies of different providers before you sign up for a package.
When I check broadband speed, I see ping, download speed and upload speed. Most of what we’ve looked at here is focused on download speed and download allowance. The reality is that ping and upload speed can also be important to you, especially if you do certain activities.
The ping rate on my speed test is 35m, and that is pretty good. However, if you have a ping rate above say 50ms or 100ms, you will have underperformance in certain activities. If you are a keen online gamer, for example, you’ll probably struggle to have a seamless journey through your games if you have a high ping rate. This is because ping dictates the response from the server and therefore, on server-based online games, you will have fuzzy, jittery and underperforming fun.
Similarly, video chat online is heavily dependent on the ping rate and if you don’t get the ping you require, you may find you don’t get the performance you want.
Upload Speed Requirements
If you spend a lot of time sending information up to the web as opposed to taking it down and viewing it, upload speed can be critical. I, myself spend a lot of time updating websites, which involves uploading a large number of files. This takes a big data allowance, but also a decent upload speed. At 1mbps, my speed probably isn’t sufficient to get really good performance, but it could be worse.
People who spend a lot of time sending photos up to Facebook, may also find that they get underperformance from their upload speed. Sending a 100 large photos could end up taking quite a lot of time.
How important upload speed is to your decision as to whether your broadband is right for you really comes down to how much its underperformance impinges on your life.
What to Do About It
If you do think “I need to check broadband speed” all the time and are monitoring your data allowances consistently, it may be time for a move.
A great way to find out about connections in your area is through a service provided by uSwitch, where you can check what speeds providers are offering in your area. Rather than just a broadband comparison of up to speeds, you can see the actual speeds that people have received on their tests. These speeds are taken where people share their speed test results anonymously in order to offer data on different providers. By using one of these services, you can quickly develop a shortlist of performers that have better upload, download or ping speeds for your needs. Then, it’s a matter of looking at fair usage and traffic management policies of different providers to ensure that you understand the actual makeup of the download limits and other costs involve in your package.
You should look out for additional hidden extras, such as line rental and fees for miscellaneous extras such as delivery of your router, installation costs, itemised billing and non-direct debit payments.
When Sam Jones’s neighbour had a problem with his internet, Phil advised him to check broadband speed. He also told him that if the problem continued that he might find a better deal with the help of price comparison sites like uSwitch
Photo Credit: LarsZi
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