What is Packet Loss and How to Prevent it?

by Carson
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A packet loss is an issue that a user usually has to deal with from time to time, and it can become very annoying, especially if the issue is server-side. While you’re frustrated with the problem, let’s look at the reasons for packet loss and prevention measures so that clients and servers can alleviate this problem.

What is a Packet Loss?

As per its name, a packet loss is when a packet is being sent but is not received. In case you don’t know what a packet is, a message is not sent in full from the client to the server. Instead, they are sent in packets containing small amounts of information.

If a user experiences a packet loss, the connection will time out or produce an undesirable result, depending on the circumstances. For example, if a user sends out a “ping” command to a server and the request times out, that’s likely a result of packet loss. Moreover, if one is watching a video when one part of it is suddenly not loading, it is also probably a lost packet. This can cause inconveniences to users and harm their experience, so servers (and users alike) must do their best to prevent these types of events from happening. Let’s look at how this can be achieved in the rest of this article.

How to Prevent and Fix Packet Loss?

For a user, this issue can be fixed like any other network problem. In case you don’t know how to do so, you first run a traceroute command to see where the issue comes from. The problem likely originates from the point where the connection is timed out and is never reestablished. If the connection does not even get through the router, you can be confident that you are responsible for fixing the problem. Please do the following if you experience this issue. Keep in mind that if one piece of advice solves this problem, you do not need to follow any of the following pieces of advice.

  • Check if the router is receiving power and that all necessary physical connections are present
  • Restart the router
  • Look for signs of malware on your computer, and remove the malware if necessary
  • Reinstall the software on the router
  • Purchase a new router

However, if the connection passes through the router, there is unfortunately not much you can do. You’ll have to wait for your ISP or the website’s server to fix this issue before you can access the content again. Alternatively, you can wait for the network traffic to ease out since network congestion can also cause these kinds of problems.

To prevent this type of problem from troubling you, try keeping adequate free CPU and RAM resources. That way, processes are less likely to get stuck and be unable to proceed through resource starvation, and packet loss will be minimized.

Preventing Servers from Losing Packets

Here comes the exciting part: webmasters can take action to ensure every connection is being processed accordingly. Here are some tips for preventing packet loss on the server-side.

Firstly, make sure you have sufficient free resources for your servers. Often, if an unanticipated spike of visitors is recorded, the server’s processing queue will be so long that the server does not have any resources to process one request as one is being sent. Therefore, the connections time out, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) occurs. To solve this problem, servers can upgrade hardware resources in case the short bursts of visitors are legitimate, or implement rate-limiting precautions to ignore inappropriate requests.

In addition, the server has to be actively maintained to avoid downtime. This includes protecting it from malware, as malware can either bring down the website directly or cause your hosting provider to shut down your site temporarily. Additionally, developers should also use tools to look for bugs in the program and fix them as soon as they emerge. That way, that bug will not take your site down when a user sends out a problematic request or if some conditions are satisfied inside the server.

It’s also essential to create, rehearse, and implement recovery procedures in case something goes wrong within the website. That way, the site can be back online soon without frustrating packet losses, which is even worse than displaying an error message saying what has happened on the site.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve discussed what packet loss is, how to prevent it from occurring, and how to fix it. Remember that it is a common yet annoying network issue and that you, even if you’re not a webmaster, may be able to remedy your problem with packet loss and unstable connection.

References

  1.  (2022, March 10). Packet loss: problems, causes and solutions in 2020. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://pandorafms.com/blog/packet-loss/
  2. (2019, October 3). What Is Packet Loss? How to Fix High Packet Loss With the Best Network Tools. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.dnsstuff.com/reduce-packet-loss

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