What is Latency, and How does it Work?

In general, we usually consider that our connection is of good quality if it has a high download speed, and if the upload speed is high, we also consider ourselves more than lucky. But there is another critical factor in measuring the quality of your connection that we don’t usually take into account, latency.

If you have noticed, when you measure your Internet connection speed, all the pages that do it tell you what the Ping is. Today we are going to explain what this parameter is, what it measures precisely and why in some cases, it is more important than speed to assess the health of your connection.

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What is Latency?

The speed of your connection represents the bandwidth you have, and the higher this speed, the greater the data packets you can receive. It is like the main road, the more lanes it has, the more traffic it will circulate every minute, and with two lanes more people will reach their destination than with one during the same period. For example, if you have dedicated internet bandwidth, your speed will be much better than a broadband internet connection.

Latency instead is the exact time it takes for a packet to remain transmitted within the network, the time it takes to receive a parcel from the server. What it actions is the immediacy of the connection. As we have a latency of 50 milliseconds, it means that this is the time it takes to get from, for example, Google’s servers to our computer.

Going back to the analogy from before, we can have a three-lane highway with hundreds of cars circulating. But that does not mean seeing the traffic in real-time. It can take a few milliseconds from when a vehicle passes until we see it give. And that is precisely the latency.

Ping remains used to measuring latency, measured in milliseconds (or ms) when it takes for your local connection to connect. With a remote computer on the IP network. Therefore, when you are going to execute a speed test, the first thing that the web will do is measure the Ping. And then it will give you the download and upload speeds.

There are different methods to measure your Ping depending on your operating system. But the easiest is to use the same pages that we recommend to measure the speed of your Internet connection.

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Where is Latency most Important?

Ping or latency is especially important in situations where the immediacy. We communicate with a server is vital for our activity. A classic example is video games since if your Ping is high you will have lag. And it will take time to reach your screen what is happening in an online game. And when the game is, for example, shooting, that can make a difference when reacting to certain situations.

When you have a video conference, it can also be essential to have a good ping to flow. It is quite uncomfortable to have one of these conversations with a high lag. And have to wait for your message to reach the other person and then for their response to come you.

And then there is the world of vehicles and connected cities. Imagine that you are driving a car remotely or operating any other system from your home. In these cases, the ability to react is vital to avoid accidents, and that is why it is essential to have latencies as low and close to real-time as possible.

Also, when one of these devices uses artificial intelligence with algorithms that need to obtain data from the network. It is vital to have a good latency to make decisions as quickly as possible. Imagine that one of those cars that drives itself takes too long to brake in a risky situation because of its lag. It can have terrible consequences.

In short, your connection’s speed is the only thing you will need to know. If you will be able to watch a movie well on Netflix or download a file in a short time. But in cases where you will interact with other elements over the network. Latency and Ping become two vital factors to measure the quality of the connection through which you will do it.

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Ayesha Jafar

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Ayesha Jafar

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