Alongside jitter and network packet loss, enterprise network latency can have a grave impact on user experience, especially in an era when end users have become accustomed to short wait times.
Consumers are more aware of latency, as their increased internet activity enables them to discuss and evaluate it. As a result, to ensure that fast speeds and a positive user experience are maintained, it is key to ensure the least latency possible.
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What is Network Latency?
The total time required by a server and a client to finish a network data exchange is known as network latency.
A number of complex network transactions are necessary when clients send requests to servers across the internet. These transactions may involve sending a request to a local gateway, then the gateway uses a series of routers to route the request via load balancers and firewalls until it arrives at the server. Therefore, a request path takes time to complete.
High latency is becoming increasingly common since networks grow daily. Resolving network issues also becomes more complex due to the boom in cloud and virtualized resources, remote and hybrid work, and enterprises running multiple applications.
Long delays caused by high latency networks result in communication bottlenecks and ultimately lower the communication bandwidth. This results in poor application performance as the negative user experience can cause users to stop using an application entirely.
There are a couple of ways to measure network latency: time to first byte (TTFB) and round-trip time (RTT). Time to first byte is the time taken by a server to receive the first byte of a client request, whereas round-trip time is the duration taken to send a request and receive a reply from the server.
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What Causes Network Latency?
The distance between the client and server has an impact on latency. If a device making requests is 200 miles from a server responding to these requests, it will receive a faster response compared to making requests to a server that is 2,000 miles away.
The difference between high and low latency may be a result of the choice of transmission media. The characteristics and limitations of a transmission medium can influence latency. For instance, even though fiber optic networks experience latency at every stage, they offer lower latency in comparison to most transmission media.
Additionally, data may be required to travel across different transmission media before completing client requests. Switching between different transmission media may introduce extra milliseconds to the total transmission time.
Data in transmission across the internet often crosses multiple points where routers process and route data packets. These points may add a few milliseconds to RTT as routers take time to analyze the information in the header of a packet. Every interaction with a router introduces an extra hop for a data packet, thus contributing to increased latency.
Domain Name System (DNS) server errors
An incorrectly configured DNS server may have a serious impact on network latency. In addition to causing long wait times, faulty DNS servers can restrict an application from being reached entirely.
Poorly optimized backend databases
Over-utilized databases can introduce latency to applications. Failure to optimize databases to be compatible with a large scope of devices might yield severe latency and consequently, a poor user experience.
Intermediate devices such as bridges and switches can cause delays when they either access or store data packets.
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How to Reduce Network Latency
Good network latency implies that a network can maintain a good connection, regardless of the volume of user data being communicated to the server. Below are some techniques to reduce network latency to an acceptable level.
Content delivery network
Since the distance between the servers responding to requests and the clients making requests has an impact on latency, using a content delivery network (CDN) makes resources more accessible to end users by caching them in multiple locations globally. This enables user requests to be transmitted to the point of presence to access data instead of always going back to the original server, yielding faster data retrieval.
A key factor influencing latency is the transmission of data over a distance. Having processing tasks at the edge of a network takes away the necessity of having to transmit data to a central server. Edge computing use cases such as edge data centers yield more responsive applications and services while reducing network latency for their users.
Constant network monitoring is vital, as it ensures network teams identify and address bottlenecks in their networks. These teams can use network monitoring tools to identify and handle network latency issues.
Subnetting, traffic shaping, and bandwidth allocation
Subnetting can lead to lower latency across networks, as it enables network teams to group together endpoints that frequently communicate with each other. Traffic shaping and bandwidth allocation techniques also should be considered to improve latency for business-critical networks.
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