The Average Ping Speed
By Jacob Andrew
Many services, particularly games, measure performance according to ping. Acquiring your ping is relatively easy, but interpreting the results requires a deeper understanding of Internet bandwidth and server response times. To get your average ping, use tools available natively to Windows, or online speed measurement websites.
Ping measures the time it takes for a remote device to respond to your ping request. The results are measured in milliseconds or ms. As part of the Internet Control Messaging Protocol, the ICMP ping command requires a specific destination. Your response time varies depending on the location of that destination, typically a server or router. Pinging your gateway address, for example, should result in less than a 1 ms response time. Pinging google.com, however, may take 50ms. A single ping is also affected by a number of factors, including load on the server and congestion on your own network; this is why ping commands in Windows issue four subsequent pings. See Resources for an explanation on how to issue a ping command.
A good average ping time varies. Since many factors affect your personal ping times, you should base your average on the pings to multiple, high-profile servers. For example, the average of pings to Facebook, Google and Yahoo should provide a good idea of your average ping. It's also important that your ping meet the standard of the service you're trying to access. Some services, such as DNS or gaming, require certain ping times in order to avoid bottlenecks. For example, Xbox Live requires a 150ms ping time in order to “certify” its online gaming experience.
Running a single ping test does not provide a clear picture of network performance. Since pings are affected by server load and your own connection, you need to run multiple ping tests to different locations. Consistently poor ping results based on a multitude of other well-maintained servers, for example, suggests the problem lies with your connection. If a single server returns poor ping results, however, you can reasonably assume the problem lies with that particular server. You should regard the average as the average speed at which popular Web servers respond to your pings.
Like any analysis, ping benefits from large amounts of data. Online services such as Speedtest.net or Pingtest.com (see Resources) allow pings to specific geographic locations. Pingtest also reports the “jitter,” or the amount that each ping test varies from the average ping speed. A low jitter means that it’s a more reliable connection. In addition to ping, Trace route -- or “tracert” as entered into the command prompt -- acts similarly to ping but asks every router along the path to report back with its response time. The resulting list can show you where in the ping a piece of data experiences the greatest slowdown.
Jacob Andrew previously worked as an A+ and CCNA-certified technology specialist. After receiving his BA in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2012, he turned his focus towards writing about travel, politics and current technology.