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Do-it-yourself tech support

Feb 10, 20033 mins
BroadbandInternet Service ProvidersRouters

A host of Web utilities help you troubleshoot your small-office network

First in a two-part series

When technical problems crop up, most small offices are on their own. Good thing there’s a host of good Web utilities that make troubleshooting your small network much easier.

Since time is money, you want to make sure your LAN and WAN connections are running optimally, and that you’re getting the throughput you pay for. The following Web sites check your network connection speed over the Internet. All offer good information, so see which you like best. Note, for the tests to work, you’ll need to enable Java for your browser.

  •, a broker for telecom services, offers its speed test. The site provides your speed in megabits per second, megabytes per second for disk storage throughput, and the time it takes your connection to download a 1M-byte file. It also compares your speed to a T-1 modem and a 56k bit/sec modem, and with other options in your area, provided you input your connection type, area code and zip code.

  • tests upload and download speeds. Test results appear ranking speeds from “slow” to “awesome” at about 1M-byte per second. My cable download speed was 1.67M bit/sec, but upload speed was only 235K bit/sec because ATT Broadband chokes the upload speeds for my connection. (Check the terms of your contract for specifics.) Provide your zip code, provider and speed details, and click the “Compare to others” button to see how your rate stacks up against others using your ISP.

  • Service provider Toast.Net compares your connection speed to the average range of dial up (33.6K bit/sec and 56K bit/sec), ISDN, Cable/ADSL and T-1. The results page also provides links to other speed-rating sites. Be aware that no two tests will produce the same results. Internet traffic fluctuates, and servers running the speed tests have varying loads at varying times. But you can get a solid range, say between 1.4M bit/sec and 1.7M bit/sec for a cable modem download speed.

If you discover your average connection rates are considerably slower than the speed you contracted for, share the test results with your ISP. You’ve got a better chance of having the problem remedied armed with numbers than by just saying, “My connection seems slower.”

To check your local network speeds, NetIQ offers free (but simplified) versions of its network analysis tools. To run the test, you need to download the Qcheck tool on at least one PC, then install the Qcheck endpoint software on the other systems. Qcheck tests the throughput speed from the main PC to any of the PCs running endpoint software.

Most PCs come with a built-in 10/100Base-T Ethernet interface that runs at either 10M bit/sec or 100M bit/sec, depending on the setting on the wiring hub. When I used Qcheck to test two 100M bit/sec PCs through a 10/100 24-port Linksys hub, I found the TCP throughput consistently measured 80M bit/sec. That range is typical, having allowed for TCP/IP packet overhead. If your speed crawls, you may have an old 10Base-T only connection somewhere you can upgrade or have a speed switch set incorrectly.

Next time we’ll investigate sites that provide security checks and ways to better handle spam.