The easiest way to test your ISP’s performance is to try another one and see if it’s any better. To get a useful comparison, try a Modem speed test. This downloads images from various Web pages and tells you how fast your connection is; if you’re noticing a dramatic difference in performance when you try a different ISP, then it’s time to jump ship. If you’re feeling curious, you can use software to get more detailed information about your connection problems.
Special programs can find out exactly where the weak points in your connection are, so you can identify whether the problems are with your ISP or with the site(s) you’re trying to access.
What can you do if your phone line is fine, your ISP is hunky dory, your PC has been tweaked to within an inch of its life and your connection is still too slow? One answer is to invest in a decent set of programs that can make the most of what you’ve got. Offline Web browsers can download entire Web sites while you sleep; download managers can make it easier to get your hands on massive program files; you could switch to a faster browser.
These programs won’t necessarily make your connection any faster, but they do help you to achieve much more with what you already have available. If that’s not enough, you’re left with two options: you can sell your house and move to a town where ADSL and cable model are available, or you could upgrade your old-fashioned analogue phone line to a shiny digital ISDN line. ISDN runs at 64Kbps which doesn’t sound like a big improvement over a modem connection, but the difference is dramatic. Connections are instant, and because ISDN is digital, you get a genuine 64Kbps connection every time – that’s 30 per cent faster than a 56Kbps modem, which will run at about 40Kbps: Where modems can only upload at a maximum of 33.6Kbps, ISDN delivers 64Kbps upload speed. And you can still use an un-metered ISP.
Of course, there’s a catch – ISDN brings new meaning to the word ‘overpriced’.
Your Telephone Company
ISDN prices are set by the lovely, caring people at your telephone company, who have made the technology ridiculously expensive. Recent price cuts have helped slightly, but ISDN is still pricey. You’ll need an ISDN card, called a terminal adaptor. Because ISDN customers are often given an ISDN number only to connect to, you’ll find it easier to get online at peak times. ISDN is especially suitable if you use the Internet for short periods. If your access time is only about an hour a day, then ISDN is the way to go.
A lot of people opt for ADSL which is an always on broadband connection, but switch off their computers for most of the day. If you’re not planning to leave your computer connected to the Internet all day, then you are wasting your money on ADSL.