Understanding Internet and Speeds

The Three Main Variables that Affect Internet Speed

We can split the connection to the Internet into three main components, which is your network, then the MCSNet network, and then the network that makes up the Internet as a whole.

Image of three networks that make up connection

This page will explore the different factors that affect Internet performance. Part one is about your network, which has a large focus on wifi and different ways to improve it. Part two is about the MCSNet network, it presents the challenges present to a wireless provider and explains peak usage and speed variance. Part three is a short account about the Internet network and how it can affect performance, and part four has some stories with more common performance issues and how they were diagnosed and resolved.

How to do an improper Internet speed test

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Find a speed test page, click the button to start, and get the results. A good result is a good result here, but if you get a bad result, you can't be sure of the cause without going through the check list below.

How to do a proper Internet speed test, and how it's different

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The purpose of doing a speed test is to test the speed of the Internet connection, which is the Internet connection provided by MCSNet. As this guide will show, the Internet speeds are influenced at several points along the chain, so we need to take a couple of steps to make sure we are testing the MCSNet connection instead of your home network or a far off Internet route.

    Proper speed test check list:
  • All Internet activity is suspended, no youtube, or emails or gaming or anything running on any connected device.
  • Preferably with a cabled connection to your router, but a known strong wifi signal will work as a first step as well. For bonus points, you can connect your computer to the Internet directly to see how it compares. See Part 1: Your Network for details on how routers and wifi affect performance.
  • Test using speedtest.net, one is hosted directly on the MCSNet website here: mcsnet.ca/speedtest, which tests from St. Paul, AB, or the Edmonton servers from the speedtest.net page. See Part 3: Internet Network for details on why this matters.
  • Get a poor result? If it's in the late evening the Internet can be slower, so you can try at a different time of day (see Part 2: MCSNet Network for why), or try connecting your computer to the Internet directly to be sure you are getting the most from your network.

Keywords: speed, bandwidth, latency