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How Can I Effectively Conduct a Performance Test of My Internet Connection?

It’s one thing to just hit up SpeedTest.net to get a rough idea of your internet connection speed, but what if you want to conduct more extensive testing over time to see if you’re really getting your money’s worth from your ISP?

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader KronoS is in an interesting position: he has access to his old internet connection and his new internet connection for a period of time. During this period he wants to test them out:

Right now I’m in the process of possibly switching from a Cable provider to a DSL provider. I have both connections live, and before I cancel one or the other, I’m wanting to do some exhaustive testing of the internet connection. I have three major questions:

  1. What are some approaches that I can quantitatively test the speeds (both up and down) and quality of my internet connections (ping, time connection is down, etc,.)?
  2. Are there other consideration that should be taken when testing an internet connection?
  3. Are there any tools that can do this automatically and capture results?

Overall, I’m looking to compare the two connections over multiple periods of time such as peak hours (1600 – 2100 in my area), and with different loads such as streaming movies, uploading files, etc,.

What’s the best method for quantitatively measuring different aspects of the data connections?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Dennis offers the following battery of tests to try out:

The Broadband Tests and Tools from DSLReports.com include a simple speed test, as well as long- and short-term line quality tests:

1. Speed Tests

Test your maximum upload speed and download speed from several geographically distributed locations.
Java, Flash and iPhone speed test (100% browser) available.

2. Smokeping

Intensively monitor an IP address for 24 or more hours to review packet loss and/or excessive latency variability — from three different US locations

3. Line Quality – Ping Test

Test latency, jitter and packet loss to your IP address, including identification of any problems en-route to you.

The speed test requires Flash or Java; the other two require that your IP is pingable.

In the absence of a specialized tool for long-term speed tests, you could use a command-line network retriever (e.g. Wget or Wget for Windows) and download uncompressable test files with a shell/batch script.

The nearest test files to Arizona I could find are from speedtest.dal01.softlayer.com (Dallas, TX) and speedtest.sea01.softlayer.com (Seattle, WA).


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/12/13

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