network performance

This question was cobbled together from several common e-mails this week.

Hey, Inetdaemon,  Doesn’t bandwidth solve all network problems with [Skype, Facetime, Vonage, NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, World of Warcraft (WoW)…], and push my frame rates through the roof in [choose any FPS/MMORPG]?

Answer:  Not so!

Engineers use a measurement called “latency” to measure delay between endpoints in communications systems, including the Internet.  High latency is bad, low latency is good.  High latency indicates a problem between endpoints. This could be you and a friend across Skype, Facetime, Vonage or  anything else.  Problems with ‘delay’ are the real causes of ‘slowness’ and communications problems. More bandwidth will only fix issues with congestion and over-subscription, and only if you can add more bandwidth along the entire path from end-to-end.   More bandwidth can’t do anything about the actual delay from the communications systems, routers, switches and the infrastructure supporting it or delay from the server.  Moreover, if the “internet pipe” at the far end serving the person or site you’re trying to reach is full, their router is busy, or their servers are overloaded, there’s no benefit to upgrading your own service to higher bandwidth.  Given the nature of the Internet, everyone else would also have to upgrade thier Internet connection to make your services faster to every site you use frequently.

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