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Network Bandwidth Bottleneck Breakdown

Feeling sluggish? There is a number of reasons why a network connection can slow down. Here are some tips on getting speedy again.

Your Internet service provider (ISP) may offer 20 Mbps of network zip. But the harsh truth is that consumers rarely receive exactly what they pay for when it comes to connection speed.

Nothing malicious is going on — it’s just the nature of connectivity. Plenty of factors can lead to temporary slowdowns, sluggish performance and even network downtime. Fortunately, you can count on proven strategies for boosting speed easily and quickly.

Hitting the Slow Lane

Connection speed can vary quite a bit, depending on the ISP. For example, if your ISP relies on a cable line, speed can be affected by the quality of the cable or how many users are sharing the connection. Slowdowns can also crop up due to problems with an ISP’s fiber network.

The problem could be on your end, though. One of the most common causes of poor Internet speed is spyware or virus infection, which can make a PC seem sluggish in general. Other reasons might include:

  • Faulty hardware that connects your PC to the wall
  • An older network interface card
  • A browser memory cache that hasn’t been cleared in awhile

Speed can even be affected if you have an open wireless network and others are hopping onto the connection.

Speed Up Now

Although some issues might be out of your control, there are also ways to switch to the fast lane.

First, contact your ISP and double-check what connection speed is supposed to be coming to your house or office. Then, do a quick test on a speed site to determine if there’s a discrepancy. If you find one, try these strategies to see if you can break the bottleneck:

  • Review the settings on your broadband router. Many times, an improperly configured router will cause performance issues. Make sure your router’s settings are in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Do an antivirus checkup. Worms, spyware, adware and viruses can significantly slow down a connection, often by running in the background without your knowledge. Clean out the bugs by doing frequent security scans.
  • Reduce the number of applications that run automatically. Any type of app that regularly uses the network to check email, to run peer-to-peer software or even to find the latest stock prices or sports scores can affect performance if used in conjunction with other apps.
  • Examine the network equipment. Cables, wires, modems and routers are just like any other type of product: they age and eventually fail. Test your equipment by rearranging cables and wires to see if it makes a difference. Sometimes, even reversing the cable that runs from a router to a modem can have an effect.

After each tactic, run another online speed test — they’re quick and free, after all — to see if you might be getting closer to the high-speed connection that your ISP promises.

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