One limitation on the performance of optical traps is the noise inherently present in every setup. Therefore, it is the desire of most experimentalists to minimize and possibly eliminate noise from their optical trapping experiments. A step in this direction is to quantify the actual noise in the system and to evaluate how much each particular component contributes to the overall noise. For this purpose we present Allan variance analysis as a straightforward method. In particular, it allows for judging the impact of drift which gives rise to low-frequency noise, which is extremely difficult to pinpoint by other methods. We show how to determine the optimal sampling time for calibration, the optimal number of data points for a desired experiment, and we provide measurements of how much accuracy is gained by acquiring additional data points. Allan variances of both micrometer-sized spheres and asymmetric nanometer-sized rods are considered.© (2009) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.