Internet speed testing won’t find most problems.

Commercialized speed testing is not real world. We all need methods which aren’t overly technical when trying to find Internet problems. (We offer one at the end of this article.)

Speed testing is, at best, interesting.
Speed testing is a useful tool to get a sense of how speeds are doing but these results don’t help to find ongoing Internet problems, especially intermittent ones. Speed testing results are a tiny window in time and are based on many factors.

If you have Internet issues, especially ongoing, intermittent ones, there is only one way to find those problems and that is by monitoring the performance of your Internet connection continually for a set block of time.

We get a lot of questions about speed testing because speeds are how most of us check to see how our Internet services are doing. If you are experiencing connection issues, you need to do something more than speed testing and there is now a simple way to do it, and you don’t need to be a technical wizard to understand the results.

First, we need to talk a little about speed testing, how connectivity works then getting to a solution that anyone can use.

Content providers — Netflix offers Fast.com
In terms of speed testing, we were excited to learn about Fast.com, a non commercial, real world speed testing service that anyone can use. (Medium: Building Fast.com)

Fast.com seems to have evolved because Netflix needed a way to let customers know that their services aren’t usually the problem but their Internet connection might be. We were happy to see Fast.com come to life because this is one of the first real speed testing services.

Content providers go through incredible measures to ensure that their services are up and available at all times. However, content providers cannot control everything between the user and their services and the blame sometimes goes to the wrong people. (Services Blamed Before Internet)

Speed testing should not be a commercial industry.
Internet speed testing appears to have become big business, an industry where even ISPs host speed test servers at highly optimized locations, commercializing those services.

Testing against those services, results are often high or reasonable and about the only time they aren’t is when there are large problems that can’t be hidden. If you were to test using three points on the Internet using a well known tool called Iperf for example, your results would be very different.

Speed testing should not be something that is commercialized but something that is made available to everyone so that consumers could get accurate results.

Problems with speed testing
The first problem with speed testing is having to fully saturate a connection in order to get a real speed. This is hard to do if you don’t own all of the circuits you are testing over. However, when using network tools, this is also a real world result.

The next problem is the more people test, the heavier the load on the test servers. When large numbers of tests come from the same location, say a neighborhood that is suffering problems, and a number of people start testing their speeds, there is only so much bandwidth available to that area. Since that bandwidth is shared, the results aren’t accurate.

Since shared bandwidth is based on who is using it at the time, if multiple people test on or around the same time, that will affect the results. If each of those tested a minute apart, those results would also be different.

Speed or Bandwidth vs Throughput
Internet access is sold as speeds but those speeds can only be guaranteed to the nearest device that the ISP has on your street or area. All non-business, consumer level Internet access is sold as a “Best Effort” service, meaning your speeds cannot be guaranteed.

In many cases, consumers are buying premium packages and speeds they will never need or use.

Interesting reading — Extreme testing
Here are two articles we wrote about speed tests:

In the above article, we went crazy, speed testing against everything we could. We tested every hour, every 30 minutes, every 15 minutes, every minute and even non-stop, relentlessly. We tested against our own data center servers and public servers just to see what we could find in terms of results and patterns.

In the end, it was as we expected. There is no good way to do speed testing unless you control all of the circuits and even then, it isn’t all that useful. When your packets have to travel over other networks, then you are subject to any limitations they suffer from or have in place.

In the above article, we wanted to shed some light on speed testing in general and wanted to explain to people that when you have Internet problems, especially intermittent problems, speed testing is never going to show you what the problem is.

Is it my ISP, their ISP, something else?
When you contact your ISP support line, about the only thing you’ll get is “your signals look good. Have you tried rebooting your PC or modem?”

This is because your ISP monitors its network but it doesn’t see things as you see them. By the time you contact your ISP about problems, they probably don’t see them anymore, or never did.

In addition, your ISP uses higher level networks too. They may not even know their own provider is having problems.

So what can we do? There is only one way to find Internet problems and that is by constantly monitoring the performance of your Internet connection.

Monitor your Internet — low cost and free versions
This is what NutPile Networks offers, a low cost tool anyone can use to find problems with their Internet services. Our focus is to enable consumers to monitor their services and gather the information they need to get the help they need.

Reports show frequency, length, average times of outages, latency, fully automated speed testing, historical data and more. You can even receive an email when outages occur.

Share, share, share
The more people who start monitoring their Internet services, the bigger the picture gets and the better the services will become for everyone. It is easy to tell one customer that there isn’t anything wrong but it is much more difficult to do this when many customers are armed with hard facts, data.

Reports even come with a sharing function so that members can share their reports with neighbors and others in the area on Facebook, helping everyone to discover if the problems are at their location only or part of a larger issue.

We have recently installed forums where people can gather, talk about the problems they are seeing, share reports, learn how to use the tools and more.

Everyone should monitor their services

Speed testing doesn’t show the full picture but when you monitor for a while, things start coming together, information that you didn’t have available to you before suddenly becomes yours to use when you contact your ISP.

It’s hard for an ISP to dismiss problems that multiple customers can see and especially when they can share their results.

Please share and let anyone you know who is having Internet problems that you’ve found a useful way to monitor Internet performance.