I’m about to start out on another one of my three part-blog posts. In the next couple months I will be looking at packet loss and Internet congestion but today we’ll start with the congestion that forms behind your internet connection – right there in your own network — and we’ll use an Internet Speed test to isolate the source of that congestion.
Congestion is similar in meaning to resistance. How much can be done before there is backup or “lag”? Usually lag comes from a bottleneck (a spot in the network where data flow is forced to slow down for some reason), a place that slows the flow of traffic down. The challenge is where to find the problem and how to correct it.
The mistake most people make when they think their internet connection is slow is to throw more bandwidth at it thinking that will help. They quickly find out it doesn’t. One of our illustrious Sales representatives, Robert McNulty, is preparing a blog entry to discuss this in greater detail than I have space for here. Should you wish for further reading on this subject check out his upcoming blog titled “Network Follies”. I’ll add a link once Robert has posted.
Is your local area network saturated? Is there a bottleneck on your internal network? These are possibilities if your Internet connection feels sluggish. Here is what you can do to determine if you have local congestion. Warning: Some of the following may be considered advanced networking and some skills in troubleshooting may be required by the person performing these tasks. If you suspect there may be an issue with your network and don’t trust yourself to perform the following, please consider hiring an IT professional to assist you. If you do not have access to one you can always contact Skyway West Support (604-482-1212 – firstname.lastname@example.org), or check the Skyway West web site where we keep a list of technically qualified partners who would be happy to assist you.
Step 1: Run a Speed Test from your normal Network Setup
This step pretty well anyone can do as long as you have a working Internet connection. To begin, browse to Skyway West’s Speed Test service via the link below. Run the test at least three times and take an average of the second and third tests. I recommend dropping the first test because the results are not always as accurate as the second and third scores.
Step 2: Run a Speed Test directly from your Internet Connection
Here is where it gets a little more difficult. We’re going to run the three speed tests again, but directly from your Internet connection. To do this we need to connect, via Ethernet cable, a computer to your modem or router. This will bypass any other network equipment you may be using. Remember when all the wires go before dismantling your network. You’ll need to put everything back. I recommend also disconnecting your network cable from the back of your ADSL/Cable modem/router.
Now that you have the Computer connected you need to tell the computer what IP to use. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide you with a dynamic IP address that is automatically assigned as soon as you plug your cable into the device. You may have to tell your computer to go get a fresh IP. If your service is with Skyway West you are assigned static IP addresses that never change. If you do not know your static IP information, please request the information from Skyway West Support (email@example.com).
Once your computer is connected directly to your Internet connectivity device and you have the correct IP information needed to get online we’re ready to go. Assuming you are working in a Microsoft Windows environment, open Control Panel from your start menu and click your way to Local Area Connection. The route to get there will be different from version to version:
In Windows 7 click Start -> Control Panel -> Network And Internet -> Network And Sharing Centre -> Change Adapter settings -> to find Local Area Connection.
Earlier Windows versions likely go: Start -> Network -> to find Local Area Network.
Once there, RIGHT CLICK on Local Area Connection and select properties. Under the Networking tab in the box below “This connection uses the following items”, find the option, “Internet Protocol TCP/IP (IPV4)”, and double click that option. This will bring up a new window. Before proceeding further record the information you see in this box. You will need to come back here after the testing is completed to restore the settings you see. Once you have recorded what is there you are ready to enter the IP information provided you. You’ll need to enter:
IP Address: X.X.X.X
Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.X
Default Gateway: X.X.X.X
Primary DNS: 22.214.171.124
Secondary DNS: 126.96.36.199
Substitute the X’s above for the numbers provided by your ISP. Supplemental note: If your ISP allows you to get an IP address automatically clear all fields in the current box and select these options. Only do this if your IP address is not dynamic:
Obtain an IP address automatically
Obtain DNS Server address automatically
Now click OK and then the close button. If you close the boxes without clicking OK first your new settings changes will not be confirmed and you will have to re-enter them again.
OK, so you’re now set up to run your second round of speed tests. Run three again and average the second two. Now compare the “normal Network Setup” results to the “Test directly from your Internet Connection”. If the results are reasonably similar there are likely no issues on your local network. If however the first is significantly slower than the second, local congestion or a local bottleneck is the most likely cause.
Step 3: Find the Bottleneck
The best way to find a bottleneck is to install a packet sniffer and analyze the traffic passing through your network. Otherwise, the simple rule of thumb is to disconnect every device and keep adding one piece of equipment back to the network at a time and run speed tests after each addition (don’t forget to adjust your IP address information where appropriate). It is straightforward enough but, depending on the complexity of your network, it may take some time to resolve.
Another little tip: if you have hubs or switches throw them in between your PC and modem/router first (one at a time), so you can test them in a more isolated environment. When you find the culprit, replace or reconfigure the device to make it perform better. If none of your devices seems to be a problem then you may have a bad cable. Cable testing will require a meter or probe and may be best left to an IP professional. If you believe your network is in good working order after testing but you’re still experiencing problems, ask your ISP for advice.
I hope you have found this general information helpful. Next month I will discuss troubleshooting congestion over your Internet connection. I’ll cover what you can do before calling Support and what information you might expect to have to provide your ISP support tech when you call for assistance. Stay tuned!
Got a question or an idea for a topic you would like to see covered in one of my upcoming blogs? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and sound off. I’ll do what I can to address your questions or concerns either personally in a reply email or on the blog. Until next month, take care.