There are many tools on the market today for testing the quality of a network connection. Many of these tools are...
quite expensive, but one tool that isn't is Qcheck. You can use it to test both wired and wireless connections. QCheck is found on Iaxia's Web site. You'll have to register first to get the free download because Iaxia would like to up sell you one of their larger and more scaleable performance testing products like IxChariot. However, the registration process isn't too obtrusive and is worth doing to get the download.
Qcheck was originally developed by NetIQ, and has a number of valuable features including:
- Response time analysis
- Streaming testing
- Throughput measurement
- Traceroute tests
In a network this portfolio of tests can not only tell you the condition of your connection, it can tell you how you connected and test for both data streaming (long data transmission communication) and response times (short burst communications). Qcheck is wrapped in an easy to understand GUI interface.
When you install Qcheck on your source system it installs a small agent software called an endpoint. The endpoint is capable of responding to Qcheck's tests, and both systems being tested require an endpoint. Although Qcheck runs on Windows 2000, NT, or XP you will find an endpoint for almost any operating system you could want to test on Ixia's Web site. You'll need to download the endpoint(s) you need and install it on your target machine. Qcheck's software creates a testing console for other systems on your network on a system it calls localhost.
Qcheck is really easy to use. For testing LAN or wireless connections you want to test the TCP/IP protocol and use the largest data sample you can. Qcheck can go up to 1 MB (1,000 KB) so you should use that size. Qcheck doesn't have to be installed on either of the two systems being tested, you only need to specify what the two endpoints of the test are.
You should test when the network is quiescent (no other users) because Qcheck will saturate the network. Run a few tests to get an average number, and test different endpoints through the same access point to get an idea of overall network performance. You'll find that most tests are often symmetrical. When the data has finished being sent it will take about the same time to have the data returned. Qcheck is a great reality check for the actual performance of your network.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.