How to Identify and Fix Packet Loss

Network performance issues are an IT problem that will have your help desk line ringing off the hook. The network is the foundation to your applications and data, so issues at this layer will lead to a bad experience for anything else that runs on top of it.

There are many reasons for performance issues, but in this post, we’ll focus specifically on packet loss. The following four causes are among the most common times you could encounter dropped packets:

1. Link Congestion

Your data must travel through multiple devices and links during its trip across your network. If one of these links is at full capacity when your data arrives, then it must wait its turn before being sent across the wire (this is known as queuing).

If a network device is falling very far behind, it won’t have room for the new data to wait (queue), so it does the only thing it can, which is to discard the information.

Hearing that data is “discarded” may sound harsh, but most applications are able to gracefully handle this, and the user probably won’t ever notice it. The user’s application realizes that a packet was lost, slows down its transfer speed, and re-transmits the data. If this was a file download, an email, or another non real-time application, the effect will be minimal as long as the packet loss doesn’t continue to happen.

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