Apr 14, 2010

Understanding Internet Line Quality Components: Ping, Packet Loss and Jitter

So, what is a ping? No, this is not about the PING in golf! This ping is about the computer network administration utility used to measure how long it takes a “packet” of data to travel to and from your computer to a server on the Internet.

Ping operates by sending Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo request packets to the target host and waits for an ICMP response, sometimes casually called a pong. In the process it measures the round-trip time and records any packet loss. Pretty much the same in a ping-pong (table tennis) game, huh?

Whenever you experience connection latency (technical term for delay) in Internet applications, this would be due to a higher than desired ping. Similar to packet loss, the lower value is better when it comes to ping. A result below 100 ms should be expected from any decent broadband connection.

Packet Loss
Much as it sounds, if you have anything less than complete success in transmitting and receiving “packets” of data then you are experiencing this problem with your Internet connection. It can means much slower download and upload speeds, poor quality VoIP audio, pauses with streaming media and what seems like time warping in online games. Your connection may even come to a total standstill! Packet loss is a metric where anything greater than 0% should cause concern.

Once you understand ping, jitter should also make sense. Jitter is merely the variance in measuring successive ping tests. Zero jitter means the results were exactly the same every time, and anything above zero is the amount by which they varied. Like the other quality measurements, a lower jitter value is better. And while some jitter should be expected over the Internet, having it be a small fraction of the ping result is ideal.

You can perform a quick and easy ping test with ping command in command prompt window to check on your Internet line quality.

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