The Latency Effect: How Packet Loss Affects Network Performance

Businesses pay for technology because it enhances their operations and more often than not provides a return on investment. However, in order to get the highest return on your investment, it’s important to monitor and maintain its performance. One aspect of your technology performance to be aware of is latency. Read on to learn what latency is, how it is measured, and the impact it has on your business’s performance.

What is Latency?

In networking terms, or data transmission terms, latency is the measured time it takes for data packets to travel between network nodes. Think of it as a telephone call. In a phone call, you have the caller or the originating node, and you have the receiver, the terminating node. Latency is the measured time it takes for the caller and receiver to communicate effectively with each other. Latency is further classified by data trip: one-way versus round-trip. When performance metrics measure the latency of a network communication in round trip communication, the time it takes to process the data on the receiving end is not calculated in the measure but can affect the delay as network elements attempt to repair packet losses.

Latency is not the same as the delay caused by physical distance, and no earthly distance is so far off that humans can detect a speed of propagation delay in communication. Delay in voice communication is the result of latency as packets are lost. The outcome of latency during a voice communication, or a VoIP phone, is a slight delay and annoying echo.

Consequences of Latency on Performance and Your Business

While the occasional latency is no more than an annoyance for your business, there are consequences to operating with this network performance killer. When latency is introduced into the network, buffers and other network elements attempt to fix the packet loss. Attempts made by the network to fix the latency result in noticeable delays in conversations. Delayed discussions can be frustrating to both the customer and your employees as well as time-consuming. In a world where time is money, we can’t have delays. The untimeliness of communication can result in overlapping noise and further frustrations.

One of the ultimate annoyances of latency is the echo it can produce. Echoes can be distracting and can damage the conversation. In addition to delays and echoes, latency is known to affect the synchronization of voice and data transmissions, especially during a video conference call or meeting. Video conferencing can be an extremely effective tool for collaboration, but with increased latency issues, people are less likely to enjoy themselves.

Your company can suffer a poor reputation in the long run if the immediate and short term effects of latency and other network performance issues are not dealt with properly. Having a reputation for poor and dropped calls or delays in presentations and meetings due to technical issues is difficult to fix once the reputation is set.

Measuring Latency

Latency is classified as a Quality of Experience (QoE) metric under Quality of Service (QoS) performance measurements. It is one of the three major network performance measurements, a triumvirate of sorts, between latency, loss, and jitter. These network performance measurements can have serious consequences on your company’s data transmissions and voice services. Unfortunately, understanding and measuring the latency of your network is arduous and requires network engineers with specialized training and knowledge. Even then, measuring your latency is a tricky business because detecting a problem requires someone to take action to fix or adjust a problem.

Unfortunately, understanding and measuring the latency of your network is arduous and requires network engineers with specialized training and knowledge. Even then, measuring your latency is a tricky business because detecting a problem requires someone to take action to fix or adjust a problem.

Quality of Service platforms provided by your unified communications service provider have built-in metrics that take all the guess work out of this and automatically take dynamic, real-time action based on what is best for the network and your business. First and foremost, voice transmission via VoIP will take precedence over all other network transmissions because they have the highest potential to cause harm to your business if they experience a drop in quality. Choosing the right unified communications partner can help build and sustain your company’s reputation and mitigate data traffic to reduce latency and packet loss.

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