Measuring Internet Speed with Cloudflare’s Speedtest

When searching for “speedtest” on Google, users are presented with a multitude of results from various providers. Some of the most well-known speed test providers include Ookla, Netflix Fast, Verizon, and Comcast. Google itself advertises two different types: NDT and GFiber speedtests.

Typically the measurements include download speed, upload speed, jitter, and latency. These metrics can assess internet performance and identify potential issues. Since the average consumer is not likely to be familiar with or interested in technical details and jargon, popular speed test providers like to have simple, user-friendly interfaces and provide the information they need to know about their internet’s performance in a clear and concise way.

Here is a typical output of one of these offered by Ookla: 

speedtest comparison

In a previous post, we compared several speed test tools, including Ookla, Fast, and NDT.

Cloudflare’s Speedtest

Another Internet speedtest that has been around for several years now is offered by Cloudflare. Cloudlfare offers CDN services like content caching, security, load balancing, DNS, and CDN analytics, and it’s in their core interests to understand how end users experience the internet since they touch so much of it.

One of things I like about their speedtest is the absence of any additional ads (other than the test itself). Once you go to the URL and accept their terms the test starts running without any further action and the output looks like this:

cloudflare's speedtest

This looks very similar to the previous screenshot from Ookla’s test, but where it gets interesting is in the additional data and metrics they provide. 

For starters they provide a “Network Quality Score” which is a heuristic that gives a layman’s assessment of how good your connection is:

network quality score

For example, if your upload and download speeds are around 150 Mbps (like the screenshot above) but latency is higher than 100 ms, that might be “Great” for video streaming, but “Poor” for online gaming or video chatting.

But they don’t stop there. For download and upload they have the following breakdown of speedtest based on the data size test. For each file size breakdown they show average, median, minimumx and maximum performance.

Download, Upload, and Latency Measurements

speedtest data breakdown

What this tells us is that if I download a 100 KBytes file I can achieve around 50Mbps speed, all the way up to 150 Mbps when I download a file larger than 25MBytes. Similarly for upload:

upload measurements

Another interesting measurement breakdown is the latency without any load but also while upload and download testing is going on. It looks like this:

latency measurements

What this tells us is that when there is low load on the network, the latency is around 6.3 ms. It shoots up to 17 ms and 35 ms while download and uploading testing is running. In addition during download and upload the latency has a pretty big variance (thick lines). The bigger the variance the bigger the jitter.

Finally, the last metric that completes the picture is packet loss:

packet loss measurements

This is also important because if you are looking to assess real-time performance of applications such as gaming, chatting, and video-conferecing, the three parameters you have to look at is jitter, latency, and packet loss.

Aggregate Measurements

One of the reasons Cloudflare launched their own speedtest was to collect anonymized data from users around the world. They used them for their own purpose of optimizing their products and services. The good thing is that they share that data with the broad community and the data junkies can find them here:

aggregate measurements

Cloudflare’s Speedtest is a cutting-edge tool that provides users with an accurate and comprehensive assessment of their internet’s performance. It measures various aspects of internet connectivity, including download speed, upload speed, latency (ping), and jitter. Their target audience is not the average consumer, but rather more advanced users. These users are interested in more detailed breakdown of their internet performance, but also global data that can be used for any kind of analysis. In addition, there is a collaboration between MLAB and Cloudflare to release new tools and data to the public.

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