Data packets are how data is transmitted through the Internet.
Data Packet Definition
What is a data packet?
A data packet is a unit of data which is transmitted through the Internet. This is what the Internet Protocol (IP) uses. Data heavy networks will also use the concept of a data packet to transmit information.
To understand what is a data packet, let us think about a picture that we would like to send over an Internet connection. This can be through a message system such as iMessage, WhatsApp, or Viber. For the picture to send, it is broken into small pieces to be sent over an Internet connection. Each piece of the picture is a packet.
The packets are then sent along an Internet connection, and assembled at the receiving end of the transmission. The receiving device will then display the sent image.
The Importance of Data Packets
The importance of the what is a data packet discussion lies in the speed of an Internet connection, and what can go wrong.
The Effect on Bandwidth
Bandwidth is how large a particular Internet pipe is. This is how an Internet service provider will advertise Internet speed. In the context of data packets, this is how many packets can fit within an Internet pipe. The more bandwidth you have, the more packets can fit within an Internet pipe.
The Effect on Network Latency
Network latency is the speed at which data packets are transmitted through the Internet, or a network. Network latency is reported as round trip time (RTT) from one point to another. Therefore, the time it will take a packet is half that. The time to travel in one direction.
An example of network latency can be seen in the Datapath.io network latency map, which is below.
The Effect on Network Congestion
When discussing network congestion, the congestion occurs with the data packets. The situation is when too many data packets are trying to move through an Internet pipe at once. There are many causes of network congestion, from insufficient bandwidth to Internet service provider artificial congestion.
The situation is like a traffic jam. Too many cars are trying to use a particular road. The result is no cars are able to move forward.
The Effect on Packet Loss
The loss of data during a transmission is packet loss. This is when all the data packets we have discussed above go missing during a transmission. This is caused by jitter, network congestion, and poor infrastructure.
The Effect on Jitter
Data packets are involved in the jitter conversation. Jitter is the irregular transmission of data packets on a network. This creates confusion for the sending and receiving computers.
If there is excessive jitter, it will result in packet loss and network congestion.
The Effect on Your Web Browser
A web browser is used to receive packets and assemble them into the web pages you view. A web browser can process anywhere from 4 to 8 data packets simultaneously. This effects the rate at which a web page loads.
The more packets that can be processed simultaneously, the faster a web page loads.
As you can see, data packets are the foundation for transferring data throughout the Internet. Topics we discuss regarding loading speeds, Internet speed, and many others begin with the transfer of a data packet. It is valuable to understand its impact on the Internet.
To learn more terms related to networking, you can download the DevOps Networking Terms eBook.