Help! My YouTube Video Stutters!

Stuttering YouTube video is the worst. How can you get in on the fun when that hilarious video your friends have been passing around looks like an interrupted mess when you go to play it on your system? Surely there’s a network issue to blame, right?

Maybe.

Don’t be so quick to curse your network if online video sputters. The true culprit could be any number of things. A 1080p-resolution YouTube video throws data at a rate of 6 to 8 megabits per second. Fast Ethernet and gigabit Ethernet wired connections — and 802.11n Wi-Fi connections — can eat that for breakfast (and then some). So don’t automatically assume that the underlying setup of your home network is to blame for poor video playback.

What about your Internet service provider? There are two super-easy ways to check the general performance between your router, your cable modem, and the Internet at large. For the first, hit up Speedtest.net and run the Flash-based bandwidth test to see just how much throughput you’re getting. Second, you can also run a bandwidth analysis directly on YouTube: Just right-click on a video and select the “Take speed test” option to see how your system fares.

“But wait,” you say. “YouTube buffers videos, so who cares how fast my connection is?” You are correct, but only in that YouTube will load a video to its completion and eliminate the need for a speedy Ethernet connection (provided you’re patient). But that’s the catch: You’ll always have to wait for the video to load. You’ll never watch videos on the fly if you’re sporting a slower connection.

But what if it’s not the connection? A stuttering video — or worse, one that won’t load fully without interruption — can be the sign of a failing network device. If you haven’t set up your security settings properly, perhaps your router is overloaded with unknown traffic and giving the impression that your Internet connection isn’t up to snuff. Your router could also be on the fritz, and these unknown connections are interfering with the device’s ability to pass consistent traffic.

So what should you do? There isn’t just one fix. Change cables, reset settings, update firmware, and reset the modem. And it might not be your router at all: Software concerns like the integrity of Adobe Flash Player, your video card drivers, or the availability of Windows resources could be factors. Not to mention your system hardware.

Finally, if it appears that a slow connection from your ISP is to blame, perhaps it’s time to put in a call and upgrade your service?

Nevertheless, it’s worth your while to include your network in your troubleshooting plan of attack. While generic, the steps I’ve listed are some of the default actions to keep in your “something went wrong” toolkit. You never know when one might lead you to an instant resolution.

Subscribe to the Business Brief Newsletter