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LAN & WAN Basics

Introduction

Three More Ways To Measure Network Speed

Do you know how fast your network is? Did you just upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet and are curious just how much faster it is than 100 Mbps? What kind of performance are you getting out of your new "AC" router? Are you really getting enough performance out of your powerline network to support HD video streaming? To answer these questions, you need a program that will measure network performance.

We are fortunate to be able to use the "gold standard" of network performance testing tools, Ixia's IxChariot. It can be a bit intimidating to set up and use, not to mention its very hefty price tag. The good news is that there are a number of performance testing tools that are extremely easy to use and carry the ultimate budget-friendly price - FREE!

Three years ago, we looked at five tools that you can use to measure network speed. That article has been so popular that it prompted this encore, covering three additional free tools that you can add your network utility toolkit.

Each of the three products is based on using one computer as a "server" and a second computer as a client. The client computer is the one that you use to initiate the tests and the one where you harvest the results. For the tests that I ran, I used two nearly new (2 week old) ASUS Intel i7-based notebooks with Gigabit LAN ports. Both computers ran Windows 8.1 and had minimal software installed other than Office, Norton Internet Security and Firefox. Both were connected via a TP-Link 8 port Gigabit switch.

LANBench

First up is LANBench. The current version is 1.1.0 and you can download it here. It is designed as a simple TCP network benchmark utility, so UDP is not supported. From their website, here's a quick feature summary:

  • Freeware
  • Multiple simultaneous connections - up to 20 (for load simulation)
  • Low CPU overhead for pure network performance test
  • Multithreaded utilizing Windows I/O completion port
  • Configurable packet size, test duration and transfer mode

LANBench requires almost no setup. Download the zip file, extract the files into a directory, and launch LANBench.exe on both computers that you will be using for your tests. No other installation is required. The screen below will appear:

LANBench main screen

LANBench main screen

On the computer that you choose to use as a server, click on Listen. Be sure to note the IP address of this computer (Run->Cmd->ipconfig), as you will need to enter it into the client computer.

On the client computer, from the File menu, choose Configure and you'll see the screen below. Enter the IP address of the server, configure your test settings and click OK.

You can test with up to 20 connections. However, in my tests with 20 connections, the tests took an average of 31 seconds to run to completion - even though the test duration was set to 10 seconds. Your results appear on the main screen and are reported in Kbps.

LANBench client configuration

LANBench client configuration

I ran the default test (10 sec, 2048 KB Packet Size and 1 connection) five times for each of the transfer modes. For unidirectional tests, ie, send only or receive only, the results were fairly consistent. A much greater variation was seen when running bidirectional tests with the client computer receiving significantly more traffic than sending. When I switched the client/server pairs the results switched, as well. Table 1 shows one set of results. Note the fairly small standard deviation of the unidirectional tests as compared the the large standard deviation for the bidirectional test.

LANBench test results

LANBench test results

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