Fast and reliable Internet access can make all the difference between a good and an excruciating web experience. If you have mission-critical work to do from home, fast internet access is even more important. Get the most from your internet service at home with these tips.
Test Your Internet Access Speed
The first step is to test your Internet connection download and upload speeds at a site like Speedtest.net or DSLReports.com to see if you're actually getting the rated connection speed from your ISP. You can also test your current mobile or home broadband speed at the FCC's Broadband.gov website and do your part in helping the FCC establish a national broadband plan; the FCC also has iPhone and Android apps for you to test your smartphone data speeds. (
DLSReport's Speed Test Statistics reveal the fastest download speeds for various US providers, so you can compare. Note that you won't likely get these top speeds all the time, but your connection speed should be at least in the ballpark of the speeds you're paying for in your plan.
Change Your DNS Settings
How quickly you access websites and online services is determined in large part by the DNS servers settings on your computer or network router. DNS servers translate domain names (e.g., about.com) into the IP addresses of the web servers where the websites are hosted, but some DNS servers may be closer to you or simply faster and more accurate than the ones you're using now. When you sign up for Internet service, your ISP's DNS servers are set by default in the router or your computer, but you can change the settings to a faster, more reliable, and more up-to-date DNS server. Both Google and OpenDNS have free public DNS services that can greatly increase your web browsing speeds and offer features like improved security.
Contact Your ISP If You Have Slower-Than-Expected Speeds
Although Internet speeds can and will vary depending on various other factors (whether you're on a slower wireless rather than wired connection to the modem, if there's a lot of traffic congestion on the service, etc.), consistently getting much slower speeds than what your plan is rated for may signify a problem on your ISP's end. After testing your Internet speeds with a wired connection to your router (to eliminate any issues due to wireless interference), call your Internet service provider or visit their website's help section to find out how to get the speed you are paying for. Some ISPs have their own speed tests and automatic "Internet boosting" programs you can run to optimize your connection speeds.
Tweak Your DSL or Cable Settings
You may also be able to increase your broadband speed by adjusting your network device settings or using web accelerators, as About's Guide to Wireless/Networking explains. The aforementioned DSL Reports resource also offers a free tweak test that can help optimize your connection speed by suggesting settings to modify based on a download test. One note of caution: speed tweaks can cause system instability and may only provide small speed increases that may not make all the effort worth it if your current online connection speeds are acceptable.
What's an acceptable speed? That's pretty much a relative matter. Most full-time mobile workers should at least be able to load web pages and send emails without attachments almost instantly -- or at least without having to watch hourglasses spin all day. (An ideal speed is South Korea's blazing 33.5 Mbps -- versus the world's average 7.6 Mbps download speed.)