Internet connections are getting faster and faster as time goes by. We are now seeing connections with speeds up to hundreds of megabits per second. However, a lot of people would probably take it at face value and say that they have a good connection since their transfer rate is, let’s say, around 50 mbps or higher. Well, there’s one more factor that needs to be considered when it comes to analyzing the performance and true potential of an internet connection, and that is ping.
You probably have heard this term before. If you called up a tech support specialist about your internet connection problems or questions, they may have asked you to do a ping test. A ping test is when you test how long it takes for your current internet connection to send a data packet to an IP address or location on the internet and then receive a packet back.
Let me give a real-life example to try and explain the concept. Let’s say you want to pass along a note and need to get it back. What would happen is you send of the paper, it gets passed along until it reaches the person it is intended for, then that person reads it and puts a small note and then pass it back to you. Ping measures how long that entire process was. So to reiterate, back to internet connection terms, ping is how long it takes from a data packet that you send to a computer, for it to read/accept the packet and send back a packet to you, until finally, receiving on your PC.
Ping is usually expressed in milliseconds. So if it says that your ping with a particular server, IP address or location on the internet, is 100 ms, it means that it takes 100 milliseconds for your internet connection to send a data packet from your pc to the IP address/location, and then back to your PC. It is basically the delay or latency in the connection between you and the other computer you are pinging to.
Always remember that you most likely don’t have a direct connection to another PC or web address/location. Your internet connection usually passes through your ISP’s servers, then on international gateways, then probably through several other servers until you reach the computer you are pinging to. If you ping your own computer, using the address 127.0.0.1, you’ll see that the ping time is less than 1 millisecond. Just type in cmd on the windows search bar, and then type ping 127.0.0.1 in the command prompt. You can use IP addresses and websites to check how fast your internet connection can reach their servers.
You’re probably asking how users are affected with ping. Let me provide some scenarios. If you’re an online gamer, you need the lowest ping possible. Why? That’s because you need to be connected to several computers as fast as possible. Most online games are multiplayer games and you need to receive packets from the server. If the server is slow, probably evidenced by slow ping times, your game will most likely stutter, resulting in a terrible gaming experience. It could also slow down your browsing and file downloading as well since it takes a long time for data to travel through the internet.
Now, what is the ideal ping? Some might say less than 50 ms, but it really depends on your experience. If you feel there’s no delay in browsing, if your download speed is exactly or almost near the rated speed your ISP gave you, your online games are running smoothly even when the servers are busy hosting lots of players, your ping may be ideal enough.
Finally, you might be wondering, what if there’s data packet loss? Then most probably, there’s something wrong in the network. It could be your connection to your ISP, your PC, it could be ISP’s connection quality or if there’s network outage, a server or IP address between you and your target PC that is not your ISP that’s having a problem, your cables might be worn out and a whole lot of other things. The best way to tackle this is to seek assistance from your ISP. They may be able to pinpoint where the problem lies through some tests.
So there you have it. Aside from the quality of the connection, the speed at which you can connect to the server, PC or internet location you are connecting to matters as well. The ping test serves as a means to determine the length of time data travels from and back to your PC. Hence, just like ping pong, which is back and forth.