Improving your broadband speeds
There is the one phrase that sums up most people's expectation for Internet more than any other......“The faster the better”. Everyone wants faster speeds, and no matter how fast, it's never enough. So what can you do? Read on to find a list of the most common and effective strategies in making the most of your broadband connection.
The first step to improving your Internet speed is knowing a few small details about how it all works. Most UK providers, like Freeola, offer rate adaptive products stating speeds of up to 8Mb/s (ranging to 24Mb/s on ADSL2+). What this means in simple terms is that they will provide the fastest speed that your phone line can physically support, up to the Headline Speed.
This is where a lot of confusing factors introduce themselves! All you really need to know, without getting too technical, is the actual broadband speed (ADSL Synchronisation) achievable on your phone line depends on factors such as the phone wiring in your home and the distance you live from your local telephone exchange; speeds will drop the further away you get.
This guide will not go into the more complex issues with improving your ADSL synchronisation, but instead focus on improving your actual throughput speed. Actual throughput is the speed you will experience when you are using your Internet. If you wish to find out more about optimising your broadband and improving your "Line Sync" please feel free to take a look at Freeola's Optimising Your ADSL Line Sync Speed guide.
1. Know your connection limits
The first piece of advice here is to assure you know what your line is capable of from the start as, if nothing else, it is very interesting to know. You can use Freeola's free Broadband Speed Checker to check out your estimated speed. You can then visit the BT Speed Test website to find out information about your current connection.
The important thing to take from the results for use with this guide is the actual throughput achieved, as improving this is the primary focus. You should bear in mind this will be limited by your IP Profile, which is a form of "cap" on the line relating to your downstream rate. The IP profile will normally be slightly lower than the downstream, limiting the throughput to this speed.
2. Do one thing at a time!
Often the most basic thing broadband users forget is there is a limit to how much our computers can handle at once! It is always best to ensure you do not try and do everything at once, as this will put strain on your equipment to keep up the pace. If you are noticing the speed is dropping, try and quit a few programmes and stop printing or scanning whilst using your wireless connection. Whilst this may not technically reduce your connection speed, it will reduce how quickly the computer can perform the tasks you are asking it to.
Also try and avoid running multiple programmes that use the Internet at the same time. Even the quickest of connections will have trouble trying to upload files, and download a video at the same time. The best advice is to just be aware of what is going on at a certain time, and try and run as few things as possible.
3. Get full control of your bandwidth "overhead"
With the amount of software available to Internet users, its not surprising that there are applications out there that will discretely use your connection. These applications will run in the "background" and use your connection to perform their tasks, which obviously affects your speed.
Typical examples of this are programmes like BBC iPlayer, iTunes downloaders and peer-to-peer software (LimeWire, BitTorrent etc). Such programmes are designed to be easy and user friendly, but not using them properly could result in them causing problems.
A particular issue that occurs with certain P2P applications is that they upload files as well as download. If the client is using the connections full upstream bandwidth, the downstream will suffer accordingly, even if you are not downloading anything.
Always ensure you are aware of what applications you have installed and exactly what is running on your computer. Completely disable anything you are not using and check to make sure it is not still active. This is not only a good idea to increase your speed, but can help improve the general security of your computer.
4. Update your browser
Your web browser will play a huge part in exploring the Internet, playing a much more important role than some users realise. Every website has information to read and be displayed correctly by your browser, and as websites get more advanced, so must your browser!
A good example of this is older versions of Internet Explorer, which many people still use as it comes free with Microsoft software and operating systems. Internet Explorer 6 has a default setting to download files on a website in a sequence. Pages with lots of media will take longer to view due to the inefficiency of this method. If you update to the latest version of Internet Explorer or use a different browser, such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, you reduce the amount of time it takes you to download the page.
There are many browsers out there giving users an extremely wide range of choice. Try and pick your favorite browser and stay with it, making sure you have the latest version and all updates from the developers website. Try and avoid "developer" or "beta" versions of software unless you are willing to take the associated risks with testing.
5. Keep your computer safe!
By now most Internet users will realise the danger involved in online activity, and be naturally wary of anything suspicious. The problem has been moderately controlled by the use of anti-virus and firewall software, which has allowed a lot more protection from such malicious activity.
However there is always the possibility that viruses and malicious content will manage to get past these protection methods and cause issues to occur that will seriously effect the performance of our connections. One major and surprisingly common occurrence is that of programmes being installed on our machines via viruses, which use the Internet connection to perform tasks such as sending unsolicited or "spam" mail.
So what can you do to stop this threat? Unfortunately there is unlikely to ever be a 100% secure method of stopping such activity as designers of such content produce more advanced software to counter the protection methods currently used. Due to this it is a very good idea to use a trusted software developer, and ensure you keep your software up-to-date. This will give you the best chance of defending your connection.
To see Freeola's recommendation and trusted provider of Anti-Virus and Firewall software please visit our ESET NOD32 package information page.
6. Protect your network from bandwidth thieves!
With wireless technology becoming more advanced, and therefore popular, a large proportion of us are now making use of the "wire free phenomenon". But this wireless technology is not without it's problems, which you should know about if you are using it.
Due to the nature of wireless broadband, it is entirely possible that other people nearby you could be using your connection. This could not only cause slower speeds as your bandwidth is being used elsewhere, but also cause other problems around the security of your connection. The technology itself is not picky when it comes to users, and will rely on the owner of the connection to tell it who to allow online. And in the age of technology this comes in the handy and easy form of using a password!
So what do we mean? Most wireless routers allow the setup of a WEP key (or the safer WPA key) by accessing your router configuration which is a simple process of entering the information or just choosing to use encryption. Please refer to the router manual for further information on your particular model.
Feel free to visit Freeola's Wireless Broadband section to find out more!
7. Make your wireless more effective
Staying on the same subject, some people wonder if there is any difference in using either a wired or wireless connection. The only real difference is that there are so many factors that can effect a wireless signal, it often becomes more of a hindrance to use. For most users this is not the case, and using wireless is really the only suitable answer to their connection issues. In general it is advisable to use a wired connection wherever possible, as it is just less likely to experience issues.
If you do have to use wireless, follow these quick pointers;
a) Make sure the router is kept in a cool place, aware from heat generating equipment such as radiators or gas fires.
b) Ensure your computer itself, or more specifically the wireless adapter, is not too close to other electrical equipment.
c) Ensure the wireless channel your router is using is not being used by anyone else nearby. You can change your channel by logging into the router configuration and viewing the wireless settings.
Check your router manual for more information on how to do this.
Feel free to visit Freeola's Wireless Broadband section to find out more!
8. Avoid extension cables
Whereas it is generally advised to use an Ethernet or other form of wired connection where possible, this is not necessarily a good idea when the cable is going to have to be fairly long to connect the equipment. Try to be aware that the further your equipment is away from the socket, the weaker the connection because the standard wiring used is usually of quite a low quality. Try using as little cabling as you can, attempting to avoid using extension cables when possible, and only high quality ones when you have to.
9. Keep equipment up to date
Most providers will offer free hardware with your connection. If you are using one of these routers you may find that you can benefit from upgrading your equipment to something of a higher quality. This is not always likely to help, but has certainly done so in a number of cases!
All technology improves overtime, and ADSL is no exception. With the recent upgrading of BT's UK based networking you may find that you can use ADSL2+ technology to get faster speeds and more reliable connections. This upgrade is not available to everyone but would be a great improvement should you have access to it. Assuring your router is compatible with ADSL2+ is a must!
Use Freeola's What is ADSL2+? guide to find out more!
10. BT iPlate
There will always be extra equipment out there that can provide some form of improvement to your broadband, and one such product is the BT iPlate. This product is a cheap way to improve your connection speed and hence improve your throughput, by reducing the interference on your line.
Whereas this technology is fairly new to the market, research is already showing 60% increases in speed in some cases. Results will obviously vary depending on the line, but some independent researchers are suggesting that 70% of homes with ADSL connections can benefit, meaning it could be well worth the investment.
11. Your ISP may be able to help...
If you are unhappy with the speeds you are receiving still, you may want to try talking to your ISP. There could be options available to you that you had not realised or considered, and your ISP will be able to talk you through or help you action any changes that can be made. Minimal adjustments made in your account can make all the difference.
It is always worth bearing in mind that, because of the nature of how broadband is provided, there are some users that may receive seemingly slow speeds that BT will deem acceptable. It is not always the case that these speeds can be improved regardless of changes made.