Once in a while, you will deal with an unbearably long ping time. Calling your ISP might solve the problem after a few minutes of trial and error, but it’s usually after spending a few hours on the phone. Here is a short list of things you should check before calling:
Step 1: Gathering data
First, let’s see whether it’s you or the ISP:
- Look at your ISP’s Twitter and status page. It’s a low effort way to see if other people are having the same issue.
- Reboot your modem and router and try plugging your computer to the modem directly. Sometimes, it’s the simple stuff.
- Check your ping immediately after rebooting your router and modem. In a recent case, the ping was fast for a minute or two after rebooting, then slowed to a crawl. A service on my server was hogging my bandwidth as soon as it had internet access.
- Ping from different devices. If you can get a good ping on a wired device but not on a wireless one, it might be a signal problem.
- Check your router’s status page. If you run DD-WRT, you can see the bandwidth usage and connection strength. In a recent case, I could see that a wired device was hogging the bandwidth.
Step 2: Common culprits
If you have figured that the problem is on your side, here are some common problems to look for.
- Check your torrents. If your upload rate matches that of your internet connection, it can slow the internet down to a crawl. Don’t forget to convert kilobytes to kilobits when comparing.
- Check your services. If you are running services (VPN, proxy, web server, SSH etc), check if they are being attacked or used without consent. I once foolishly ran a public proxy that somehow made its way onto a public proxy list and it killed my router after a few minutes. The Apache access logs, among other things, might provide some information.
- Check your other computers. On OS X, use the Network tab in Activity Monitor to spot bandwidth hogs. The Windows task manager offers similar functionality.