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Network Latency: What is it and why is it important? 

Network latency measures the time data takes to transfer across the network. Networks with a longer delay or lag have high latency, while those with fast response times have low latency.  

High network latencies cause application performance to degrade, often at levels high enough to fail. The lag time from latencies can create inefficiencies, especially in real-time operations.  

High latency can also have a negative effect on user experience and customer satisfaction. 

You want the lowest possible latency and faster network communication for greater productivity and more efficient business operations. 

What are the benefits of low latency? 

Increased Network Efficiency

Low latency can contribute to more efficient use of network resources, as there is less idle time and more effective utilization of bandwidth. 

Improved Responsiveness

Low latency delivers faster response times between devices. This is critical for applications where real-time interaction is essential, such as online gaming, video conferencing, and voice communication. 

Enhanced User Experience

Applications that require quick and seamless interactions, like video streaming or online collaboration tools, benefit from low latency. Users experience less buffering, smoother playback, and more responsive interfaces. 

Efficient VoIP and Video Conferencing

Low latency is essential for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video conferencing applications. It allows users to communicate in real-time without noticeable delays, contributing to a more natural conversation flow. 

Optimized Cloud Services

Cloud-based applications and services, including storing, sharing and protecting files, benefit from low latency. Users can access and interact with data stored in the cloud more efficiently, leading to a better overall experience. 

Reduced Data Transfer Time

Low latency speeds up the transfer of data between devices, reducing the time it takes for information to travel across the network. This is particularly important for large file transfers and data-intensive applications. 

Improved Support for IoT and Automation

In the context of the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation, low latency is essential for real-time communication between devices. Devices need to exchange information quickly to make instantaneous decisions and responses. 

Optimized Web Browsing

Low latency provides faster loading times for websites, improving the overall browsing experience. Users experience quicker responses when interacting with web pages and applications. 

What are some applications that require low network latency? 

Although all businesses prefer low latency, it’s more crucial for specific industries and applications. The following are example use cases.  

Real-time data management 

Enterprise applications often merge and optimize data from different sources, such as software, transactional databases, cloud, and sensors. They use change data capture (CDC) technology to capture and process data changes in real time. Network latency problems can easily interfere with these applications’ performance. 

API integration 

Two different computer systems communicate with each other using an application programming interface (API). System processing will often stop until an API returns a response. So excessive network latency creates application performance issues.  

Video-enabled remote operations 

Some workflows, such as video-enabled drill presses, endoscopy cameras, and drones for search-and-rescue, require an operator to control a machine remotely by using video. In these instances, low-latency networks are crucial to avoid life-threatening consequences. 

What causes network latency? 

Latency is generally caused by distance as well as electronic “hops”.  Excessive and/or variable latency can be caused by hardware issues or congestion. The following are just a few examples of latency: 

Transmission medium 

The transmission medium or link has the greatest impact on latency as data passes through it.  

Every time the network switches from one medium to another, it adds a few extra milliseconds to the overall transmission time. 

Distance the network traffic travels 

Long distances between network endpoints increase network latency. For example, if application servers are geographically distant from end users, they might experience more latency. 

Number of network hops 

Multiple intermediate routers increase the number of hops that data packets require, which causes the network latency to increase. Network device functions, such as website address processing and routing tables lookups, also increase latency time.  

Data volume 

A high concurrent data volume can increase network latency issues because network devices can have limited processing capacity. This is why shared network infrastructure, like the internet, can increase application latency. 

Server performance 

Application server performance can create perceived network latency. In this case, the data communication is delayed not because of network issues, but because the servers respond slowly. 

Have questions or want to learn more? 

Do you have questions or want to hear more about how WIN can help you reduce latency? Read our blog post Maximizing Network Efficiency: A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses or talk to a WIN Specialist today!