There are many contributing factors to connectivity and computer performance when using the Internet: it is not just about the type of your internet service provider, or the features of your computer – different issues can present various combinations of issues, causing trouble with your internet connection.
Most commonly, internet connection speed is affected by types of Internet access, issues within your computer, or by external factors.
1. Connection speed is affected by types of Internet Access
This one is obvious. Your connection speed first and foremost depends on the the type of Internet connection you have. There are several most common ways to connect to the Internet. So, what makes them different from one another and which one will serve you best? Here are most common types of internet access:
- Dial-up. Not so common anymore, dial-up is a form of Internet access that uses the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to a dialed connection to an Internet service provider (ISP) using a telephone landline, with an average transmission rate of 150 kbit/s. Chances are, some of you are young enough not to even know what that is, and those old enough still remember the squeaky-squealy static noise when trying to connect (We did put up with it in anticipation to hear a now proverbial “You’ve got mail!”. Dial-up connection is the slowest type, and it is is on it’s way to become obsolete. According to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), only 6% used dial-up in 2010, mostly in rural areas.
- DSL. Digital Subscriber Line (or Loop) is a type of Internet connection provided by an ISP through the telephone network. DSL uses the high frequencies, while the low (audible) frequencies of the line are left free for regular telephone communication, so unlike dial-up, DSL does not interferere with the telephone line for regular voice phone calls. These frequency bands are subsequently separated by filters (telephone units) installed on location. 8 mbits/s transmission rate is an average number for DSL, but distances greater than 2 km (1.2 mi) significantly reduce the bandwidth usable on the wires (twisted-pair copper), and it can reduce the data rate.
- Cable It is used for transmission or receipt over cable television lines, and is is used primarily for connecting to the Internet. A cable modem converts analog data signals to digital form and vise versa to transmit signals over cable lines much faster, and it is not to be confused with a telephone modem. Transmission rates average around 1.5 mbit/s. Faster transmission is actually possible, but speed is usually restricted by the cable company’s (typically slower) connection to the Internet. Cable Internet access is competitive with DSLs
- FiOS (Fiber Optic service) connects to the Internet using light over an optical network. In your home, you still connect your computer through copper wiring. The advantage of FiOS is that it can provide higher speeds than traditional copper wire connections such as DSL or cable. Some Internet providers offer multiple options, depending on the area you are in. More populated areas are more likely to have FiOS available. Check with your phone company or Internet provider for more information.
- Internet connection via Wireless Network (Wi‑Fi) – your Internet connection speed can be affected by both where your computer is located and whether other wireless devices are in the same area. Wireless networks operate on frequencies that are similar to those used by other devices, such as microwave ovens or cordless phones. Operating a 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) cordless phone next to your 2.4 GHz wireless laptop can cause interference, or completely block the wireless network connection. If you have a poor internet performance while using WiFi, rule out proximity to devices that may compete for your internet connection, move closer to the access point and make sure that there are no physical obstructions between the access point and your computer.
2. Connection speed is affected by issues your computer may have
The health of your computer can affect your Internet connection. Spyware and viruses can definitely cause problems, but your Internet connection speed can also be affected by add-on programs, the amount of memory the computer has, hard disk space and health status, as well as the programs that are being used.
Two of the most frequent causes of poor Internet performance are spyware and viruses. Spyware can slow your system by interfering with your browser and monopolizing your Internet connection. Spyware monitors your Internet use and keystrokes, which adds delays. The problem is compounded when there are multiple spyware programs running at the same time. If the problem is severe enough, you can lose connectivity altogether. To get your Internet performance back, you should regularly run an antispyware program to clean out any spyware infestation. For more information, see Scan for spyware and other potentially unwanted software.
Computer viruses can also cause poor Internet performance. When a virus infects a computer, it installs computer code which will attempt to propagate itself, usually by sending copies of itself through e‑mail. Some viruses can multiply at the rate of hundreds of e‑mail messages per minute, which leaves little computing power and Internet connection bandwidth for anything else. Viruses often do not give any obvious indication that they are running, so it is best to run your antivirus software at all times. For more information about dealing with viruses, see Viruses: frequently asked questions.
Browser add-ons also cause performance problems. Many browser add-ons can add to a rich browsing experience, offering multimedia or specialized document viewing. However, some add-ons can slow your Internet connection.
Like all computer programs, browser requires a certain amount of computing power, memory, and disk space to run efficiently. Every webpage you view is first downloaded to memory and then saved to temporary disk files. Running another program that is using lots of memory and computing power can compete with the browser and cause delays; in this case closing competing programs may help. try closing them. Additionally, consider increasing the memory you have on your computer. Low disk space can also cause performance problems. You can increase your disk space by deleting temporary files from your computer space. (If you are not sure how to do that, ask your systems administrator for help)
3. External factors that affect connection speeds
There are some events and conditions affecting your internet connection speed that are outside your control, such as traffic jam on busy websites or a computer virus. Such issues can slow a chunk of the web, not just your connection.
Local Internet congestion can also compromise the speed, when many people try to connect to the Internet at the same time at the internet “peak” hours.
If you’re on a computer network – such as in the corporate offices, general network and proxy server use can be a factor as well. That is why most network administrators monitor Internet use and set up rules and policies that help avoid systems overload. If you have an issue with the speed of your Internet access, you might bring it up to your network systems administrator.