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What is Packet loss and how do you fix it?

All data on the internet is transmitted in the form of packets. However, these packets travel the network without any interruption. But there could be a couple of reasons that affect the data and result in packet loss. For this purpose, VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) breaks down the sounds and other media files into smaller packets that go around the network and get assembled once it reaches the destination. 

General Security Tutorials Apr 07, 22 by Nisal N 18 min Read
What is Packet loss and how do you fix it?

For every business, it is essential to minimize this packet loss as it might create miscommunication and poor customer experience. If we consider the worse case, losing packets might lead to reaching security, faulty file transfer, and increased jitter. Before we find out the reasons for packet loss, we must know what a packet loss is, what is a data packet, possible reasons, how to find data loss, how to fix it, and how to prevent packet loss. We will cover everything in this article.

What is Packet Loss?

Packets are the smallest unit of data that are transferred over the network. Every activity occurring over the internet involves packets, such as transferring emails, downloading data, streaming media files, etc. packets take the best possible way to reach their destination, ensuring network efficiency. If you are working in an optimally configured network, divide the load across several hardware and software, ensuring high performance and improving the experience for end-users. 

Most users do not know what a packet is and how data is lost. Some common scenarios, such as buffering a media file taking time to download, mean some packets are lost. 

But what does packet loss mean? Some data units called packets are transferred via a router and the device whenever you connect to the internet. If the packet does not reach its destination, it is lost in between. If the packet has to cover a long distance on the network, there are high chances of data loss.

As explained above about the packet loss meaning, packets that are lost will drain the entire network, reducing network speeds and affecting the network’s throughput and bandwidth. Packet loss can negatively impact your business. To accommodate such losses, you should invest in a good IT team and equipment. Packet loss can affect the productivity and performance of any business. So make sure you have the appropriate measures in place. 

What is a data packet?

To get to the depth of the packet loss, you must know what a data packet is. Whenever you send the data over the internet, the Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/ IP) splits the data into smaller chunks referred to as packets, making it easier to travel. Each packet travels through a different and best possible path. Once all data packets reach the destination, the packets are assembled back to create the original message.

For example, sending an email gets broken down into data packets to be sent to the recipient. The data packet will contain the below-mentioned three parts.

  • Header: specifies the intro data packet, including the sender information, such as the sender IP address and the receiver IP address, along with packet information like packet type and packet number.
  • Payload: it contains the actual content of the email.
  • Trailer: specifies the conclusion or sign-off data packet. It lets the destination know that it has reached the end of the data packet and there is nothing else data to be received. It also contains error corrections indicating the computer to resend the packet in case of an error.

What causes Packet Loss

Well, there could be several reasons that can lead to packet loss. We have mentioned the common reasons behind the packet loss.

  • Bandwidth Congestion

Bandwidth congestion, referred to as network congestion, degrades the VoIP call quality and overall transmission speed. It usually occurs when the Internet bandwidth cannot handle transmitting data and delays processing it. This scenario is similar to a traffic jam and makes the network busy.

It results in delays in reaching the data to their respective destinations and sometimes leads to loss of information to give some space to the network. However, the delayed packets will reach their destination once the jam disappears. But sometimes, the packets are entirely lost. 

How to Detect bandwidth congestion: A network with bandwidth congestion will experience high latency, increased jitter, and higher than standard packet loss rates. Network monitoring tools help you measure congestion by checking these factors. Congestion can last from a few minutes to hours.

  • Faulty Networking Wires

If your network is wired, then a faulty ethernet cable can be the reason behind the packet loss. These wires might not handle the enormous traffic very well and deteriorate the data before reaching its destination. If the cable is damaged or has connection issues, it will generate the electrical signal combined with the data packet to alter the actual message. Dirty or poor-quality fibre connectors can also impact the data.

How to Detect faulty networking wires: if you are sensing a delay in reaching the packet to their destination in case of a wired network, you must run a frequent check on the cables and find if there is a fault or not. Ensure no visible exterior damage and check the network connection points to maintain a secure and complete transfer. 

  • Faulty or Insufficient Hardware

Sending data across the network passes by several hardware and devices, such as routers, firewalls, etc. If any Ensuredevices are outdated or faulty, it can lead to data loss. This scenario occurs whenever a business expands without upgrading the necessary hardware that manages the data transfer. 

Another reason could be the mismatch of duplexes. Duplex communication lets the connected devices exchange data. If the two are connected and operating in different duplex modes, the connecting link needs to be efficient to allow that transfer smoothly. It means that one device has a half-duplex setting, and the other is working in a full-duplex mode. In the case of the half-duplex, signals travel both ways but can only travel in one direction at a time. Packet loss occurs when one device is experiencing full-duplex functionality and the other is experiencing half-efficiency.

How to Detect faulty hardware: if you face a problem with specific hardware, you will get an error message about which device is showing unusual working. You can use monitoring tools to monitor their performance. Also, you can go through logs to check the faulty hardware.

  • Software Issues

Software is an integral part of any business for transferring data. Suppose any leading software fails or is outdated, packet loss. The software can malfunction due to programming errors, unexpected behaviour, older version, virus infection, etc.

How to Detect issues related to software: software-related issues will make your connection slow. So you can check which software is consuming all the bandwidth and resources. You can use the computer’s Task Manager/Activity Monitor tool to interact with the network.  

  • Wi-Fi Networks

If you send and receive data via Wi-Fi, you might experience degraded quality. It might be due to the weak internet connection. Sometimes, interference of other signals with the Wi-Fi can impact the transfer of packets, and some of the data get lost. Wireless networks are riskier than wired connections in packet loss and impact your network latency. The chances of packet loss will increase with the distance from the Wi-Fi source. 

How to Detect wi-fi-related problems: Check the device for your Wi-Fi status from the settings. You will be able to determine the Wi-Fi strength. You can face weaker Wi-Fi signal strength due to an overloaded network and find it difficult to accommodate all of your devices. 

  • Network Attacks

Some people do not understand the importance of solid VoIP, as it eliminates the risk of cyber threats like Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. It can cause network packets to lose due to the overload of the network. Packet loss creates an entry point for hackers to hack and harm your system. You will face another problem: trouble accessing files, weak network, less bandwidth, etc. Every business of any size is at risk of DDoS attacks.

How to Detect network packet loss creates an entry point for the hackers to hack and harm your system. Related issues: Whenever your network is under attack, you will notice that your network is slower than usual. Files and websites will respond slower and take time to open. Thus it is essential to monitor your network traffic and determine the network vulnerabilities. 

How to Detect Packet Loss on Your Operating System?

Now, you know the possible reasons behind the packet loss. Users can use different types of operating systems. Thus they must know how to detect packet loss on the specific operating system. It is a good practice to check your network traffic performance whether you are facing any issues or not. 

Here, we have mentioned ways to detect packet loss on Mac, Linux, and Windows OS.

macOS Packet Loss test

You can simply follow the below steps to detect the packet loss.

  • Go to Finder, → navigate to Applications → then, Utilities
  • Open the Utility folder and select the “Terminal” option.
  • Type: Ping 127.0.0.1 and hit “Enter”
  • The process will take a few moments, and then you can press the “Control C” to stop the command in between. 
  • You can check the statistics at the bottom of your terminal, as shown below. 

Linux Packet Loss test

You can simply follow the below steps to detect the packet loss on Linux machines.

  • You can use the keyword shortcut “Control T” to open the terminal
  • Type: Ping 127.0.0.1 and hit “Enter”
  • You can check the required statistics displayed at the end of the test, as shown in the below image.

Windows Packet Loss test

You can simply follow the below steps to detect the packet loss in Windows operating system.

  • Go to the “Run” application by using the keyboard shortcut the “Windows Key” + “R.” 
  • Then type the “cmd” and hit ok to open the terminal.
  • In the terminal, type: Ping 127.0.0.1 -t and hit “Enter.”
  • After processing at least ten packets, press “Control” + “C” to stop the command in between.
  • You can check the results, as shown below.

How To Fix Packet Loss?

There are several ways to fix this information loss. The solution is straightforward, and there is no need to have the technical knowledge to fix this. Depending on the packet loss, you can implement the specific fix.

Here, we will specify how to use the network monitoring tools to identify packet loss and take appropriate preventive actions to run the process smoothly. Below are some simple fixes that you can go for.

  • Examine Physical Connections

If your network is physically connected, you can check the Ethernet cord if it is physically plugged into your router. All other cables are correctly attached to their corresponding ports if any cords or cables are damaged and not responding as expected. You can opt for a replacement to establish a smooth connection. Whenever you purchase the cable, make sure you go for the best option as they will last longer, saving you a lot of maintenance costs. Also, check the jacket on the wire to ensure durability. If you are using several cables altogether, protect each cable with proper shielding.

  • Check For Software Updates 

If your software is outdated or infected, it consumes a lot of network bandwidth, resulting in packet loss and poor performance. So make sure that you constantly update your software whenever a new update comes up. Also, you can turn on the automatic update option to reduce the manual effort. Always restart the system once you opt for the software update. If you do not get an immediate fix for the software-related issues, you can go for an alternate software for the time being until the IT team resolves the problem.

  • Upgrade Your Hardware

Like software, outdated hardware also results in packet loss due to poor performance and slow processing of the packets. Always use the updated hardware and devices to process the packet as per the new methods. If your hardware fails consistently, you will know it is high time to replace or fix it. You can take the help of a dedicated IT team to resolve the issue.

  • Check Your Wi-Fi Connection

Wi-Fi is not enough to carry out VoIP communications, as you all know. So if you are only using the Wi-Fi, it will not work correctly and will lead to packet loss. For detecting this issue, you can use the Wi-Fi analyzer to check what is and what leads to the loss of information. If your signal is repeatedly lacking, reset your router to get a more robust Wi-Fi network. If your Wi-Fi is still not working, then you can replace it with a wired connection.

  • Address Bandwidth Congestion 

Whenever your network fails to handle the incoming packets as expected, it delays processing packets, resulting in packet loss. To overcome this issue, you can consistently monitor your network using monitoring tools and determine where the congestion is and what is causing that congestion. You can transfer during the less congested time to avoid the loss. You can schedule the transfer if required. Split the traffic smartly so there will be no load on a single path, and the packet will be processed efficiently. If this will not work, you need to expand your bandwidth as your business scales up.

  • Address Network Security Vulnerabilities or Attacks

An attack on the network also rests in packet loss. Whenever you encounter any attack, you need to act immediately through the logs and check the vulnerabilities. Look for the IP addresses impacting your network and block those IP addresses immediately to keep your process running. It would be best to involve professional IT teams in maintaining security and preventing the network from future networks. 

Best Tools To Fix Packet Loss

To fix such issues, you can use quality of service and network monitoring tools that will provide you with real-time network-related information to act accordingly. Below are some commonly used tools. You can choose any other tool as per your business requirement.

  • Paessler PRTG: For Comprehensive “Best Overall” Monitoring 
    • The Paessler PRTG Network Monitor is a well-known and commonly used network monitoring tool. 
    • Using this tool will provide you with a detailed real-time overview of your entire IT infrastructure, including thousands of devices connected and sharing information.
    • It allows you to configure customized notifications for desktop and mobile devices (iPhone and Android).
    • You will receive monitoring alerts for network events, such as percentage-based packet loss, jitter levels, Wi-Fi signal strength, traffic, bandwidth, activity, etc.
    • You can use PRTG with various operating systems and technologies (Windows, Linux/Unix, macOS, REST APIs, etc.).
    • You can create custom maps and dashboards with the help of various plugins. 
  • SolarWinds: For Multi-Vendor Quality of Service Monitoring 
    • SolarWinds comes with tools, such as VoIP and Network Quality Manager (VNQM), that will provide you with detailed real-time insights. 
    • It will also update you on the network’s performance with the help of its advanced packet loss monitoring. 
    • The platform provides call path details to examine the performance metrics that signal packet loss. The metrics are- latency, jitter, devices, protocol, Codec, call duration, etc.
    • SolarWinds has a PerfStack dashboard that compares the packet loss data based on the SIP trunk activity, network status, and VoIP performance to provide an overview of your system using historical data. 
    • It also allows users to configure custom notifications to identify the priority issues.
  • ManageEngine OpManager: For Scalable, Affordable Monitoring 
    • It is a continuous network monitoring software that works well for all network devices, networks, WAN links, access points, and more. 
    • It will help you to pinpoint the issues along with troubleshoot them. 
    • You can monitor more than 2000 network metrics to check the performance. Some of the metrics include memory, CPU, errors, WAN performance, devices, etc.
    • Users can create customized multi-view dashboards having 200 widgets. It will generate notifications when preset metrics go below a specified threshold. 

Conclusion 

Compromised data during transmission is one of the nightmares of every business dealing with crucial information. Thus, the company must implement every possible measure to prevent data loss. There could be several reasons impacting the network causing packet loss.

We have mentioned some of the reasons that can be considered. If you implement the right solution at the right time, you can avoid data loss. Irrespective of what operating system you are using, you can check the real-time update of the packet transmission.

If you come across any issue, you can fix it with the help of the solutions mentioned above. Also, you can track the network’s performance using networking monitoring tools. So make sure that you have the updated software and hardware within your network for smooth processing of the packets.

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Nisal N

Computers has always fascinated me since I was a kid and here we are. I love travelling for 2 reasons: the first one to see a new part of the world and second (the most important one) to experience the rich culture hidden among the country and people. I'm pretty good at cooking but very poor when it comes to baking.

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