When sending information over the Internet a series of protocols (TCP/IP) breaks the information into packets. Each of these packets is then transmitted individually through the network via the most efficient route as determined by TCP/IP. The packets are then received by the TCP/ IP at the receiving destination. When a packet fails to arrive at its destination it’s called packet loss.
Packet loss can occur for a number of reasons such as insufficient signal strength, interference, hardware failure or network congestion. The protocols are designed to handle some level of packet loss using error correction. Each packet contains the information it needs to make it to a destination so a loss of a single packet will not affect the data at the receiving end. In general, it takes significant packet loss to cause enough problems for an end user to notice. But it isn’t an uncommon situation depending on what kind of Internet connection is being used.
Packet loss can occur in both uploading and downloading from the Internet. As a consumer there isn’t anything you can directly do to prevent packet loss. Often the issue is at the ISP or the network between you and their services.
If you are a business using an internal network and experience problems your IT staff should be able to determine if it is an internal or external issue.
The effects of packet loss depend on the application. In file transfers, lost data packets result in corrupted and unusable files. In audio conferencing lost packets cause break ups and noise in the conversation.
In video streaming packet loss can cause stuttering and a poor experience for the end user.
If you are planning on streaming a live event, we recommend extensive testing be done using the same network connections the event will be using. This can ensure that the network at the broadcasting origin of the stream is able to handle the streaming load with minimal packet loss or other network issues such as latency.« Back to Glossary Index