The short version
- Your location will determine what’s available.
- Cable is typically the best performer.
- Always ask what download speed to expect. Rock bottom is 2.5 Mbps. Anything less won’t work.
- 5 Mbps is our recommended minimum download speed.
- Get the fastest you can afford. 60 Mbps is a good speed/price point. Above that may not be necessary.
- Wired connections ( Cable, Phone DSL ) to the house are more reliable than wireless, but may or may not be faster.
- For cellular Internet, 20 GB per month or more data plan is typically needed to accommodate updates and upgrades.
The long version
Choosing Your Internet Service
Cable based Internet such as Comcast and Charter typically offer the fastest Internet service and the one we typically recommend. However, your location plays the primary role regarding what is available to you. If you are located in a town or city, you may have your choice of cable, DSL, wireless, or cellular Internet. Rural locations often have to take what’s available which is most likely wireless, cellular or, God forbid, dial-up. Because cable and telephone based DSL use wires, they have a limited range. Rural locations are also limited by the distance to towers or any obstructions in-between.
More than a few variables to think about.
If you use wireless to connect your inside devices to your modem or router, such as laptops, tablets, and phones, your inside wireless plays a role in your overall performance. The newest wireless should be able to match what a cable Internet service provides. Slower Internet services will not outrun your internal wireless speed so no need to upgrade. Fast, 200 Mbps Internet service combined with old, internal wireless may not work at an optimal level. The internal wireless will be a choke point, possibly wasting the money spent on fast Internet service.
Wired Internet service to your building is typically much more reliable than wireless Internet to the home. Wireless can vary from miserable to acceptable. Weather, obstructions, distance, hill and dale, etc all play a role. An excellent example of miserable service is a client we had who lived in a black hole regarding Internet options. No service worked. Then, one fine day a new tower was put up and his receiver was pointed at it. Boom! From barely a 1Mbps download to 40. Quite an impressive improvement.
When purchasing an Internet service, always ask what you might expect for a download speed. We consider anything less than 2.5 nearly unusable. Our minimum recommendation is 5 Mbps download speed. Cable might get 60 Mbps download minimum, which is typically sufficient for a single user or even two or three. There are 200 Meg services available, but frankly, a home user would be hard pressed to take advantage of that speed. It’s expensive and if the page you’re visiting appears 10 milliseconds faster, is that worth the expense? The particular websites being visited, combined with other factors, may not even be able to deliver their content anywhere near that fast.
Faster is always better, of course. Whether it’s worth the price? You make the call. Because everything revolves around the Internet so deeply, the fastest connection you can afford is preferred, up to a point of diminishing returns. That point typically starts at 60 for home or small business users. If you are using CCTV over Internet, remote access, VPN, remote gaming, multiple movie streams at once, etc, things are different. The more bandwidth, the better.
Testing Your Internet Service
When testing your Internet download speed, the proper way to do it is to use a wired connection to your Internet Service Providers modem or router – no wireless unless you are specifically testing your wireless speed. The reason being is that wireless has a ton more variables that will cause it to run slower than the actual Internet connection to your house, building, or apartment. For a quick test, speedsmart.net fits the bill. Internet speed will vary throughout the day so several tests may be in order, when no one else is using it. The various Internet providers have their own speed testing sites such as Xfinity ( Comcast ), Spectrum ( Charter ), ATT, ( SBCGlobal, ATT, Ameritech ) etc.
Internal Versus External Internet
The Internet connection to your house is different than the Internet connection INSIDE your house. One can work great but the other may be broken or running poorly. It’s one of the things we troubleshoot on-site. We need to determine if your Internet problems are due to an internal or outside issue. Outside requires a call to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) where inside is your/our problem. Your Internet provider will not care if your internal internet connections are working or not. All they care about is if it successfully enters your home in a working state. What happens after that is no concern to them.
Cell Based Internet Service
Cell service is also a viable option, not unlike what your phone uses. However, and this is a big however, you may be limited in bandwidth. We frequently work with clients who have the issue of maxing out their bandwidth allowance mid-month. This is most often due to Windows, antivirus, various programs, manufacturers, etc constantly installing updates and upgrades all the time, automatically. If an upgrade fails, Windows may download it again and keep trying – forever. A Windows version upgrade can be in excess of 4GB!
One customer had such a low bandwidth limitation, 1GB per month, that we had to shut off their update function. Dangerous, but it was either that or get a bigger data plan. We asked them to bring the computer in occasionally so we can install upgrades using our service. YouTube videos do not come for free when using a cell type connection with a limited data plan.