In the age of the internet, knowing latency’s meaning is massively important. This is what it is, how it works, and how to lower it in your life!
Living in the modern world means living with the internet. Over the past couple of decades, many people’s lives have depended on their internet connection. It allows them to communicate, interact, relax, and get work done in all kinds of contexts. Even if people aren’t actively using a screened device, the amount of time a person spends using the internet and its tools is massive.
When using the internet, one of the most important things to know about is the concept of network latency. This is massively important for internet-related functions, including online games, social networks, and communication webpages. Low latency in these tasks can help make a person’s internet usage fast, highly responsive, and smooth.
This is the definition of latency, how it works, and what it looks like in everyday internet usage.
What Is Latency?
Latency is the time delay (often measured in milliseconds) between an input and response in a computer system. In many cases, a system’s latency is equivalent to the RTT (round trip time) that it takes data packets to send and receive over networks.
Latency is often used to describe the delay that occurs in an online network connection. In practice, one of the most common places this is seen is in online gaming. Gamers are constantly looking for a way to have lower latency. That means that there will be decreases in the delay between when they make an input and when it is recognized by the online host.
If you have higher latency, your response time to things in the game will be much slower, making the overall user experience much more sluggish and frustrating.
Lots of internet and WiFi providers are looking to lower latency in their networks and services. While it isn’t something that matters too much to people that demand less of their internet connection, it’s still something that will make a person’s user experience on the internet much better.
Many people are finding new technologies and systems to make their internet latency as real-time as possible, using things like fiber optic cables, newer routers, and lower latency networks.
How Is Latency Different From Bandwidth and Throughput?
A common confusion when people talk about latency is its relationship with bandwidth. While these are similar concepts, they are actually pretty different.
The latency period is the time interval between data being sent and reaching its destination. On the other hand, bandwidth refers to the capacity of a network and the amount of data that can be transmitted in a given time. These two metrics work together when accomplishing data transmission and significantly impact the overall latency of a network.
Think about it like a pipe transporting water — the bandwidth is the size of the pipe, and the latency is the speed at which the water is moving. The rate at which water is transferred depends on both of these factors. If either of these factors is too small, it will be a bottleneck.
As such, it’s essential to make sure that a network has a high enough bandwidth and a low enough latency so that there isn’t a high latency when using apps and services that take up a lot of data.
Throughput is another critically important factor in a network connection. It’s the actual amount of data delivered in a specific duration of time, which directly relates to the speed at which internet services are provided. The relationship between a network’s latency and bandwidth typically comes together to inform what a network’s actual throughput is.
Other Ways to Use the Word Latency
While latency is most commonly used in the modern world to describe internet and network connections, it has a lot of other uses in different contexts. Here are some of the other places where latency is used to describe a time gap between cause and effect.
Latency is often used to describe the delay between audio entering and passing through an audio system. This is often due to various things like digital to analog conversion, DSP (digital signal processing), and the speed of sound in the air.
When a video is transmitting in real-time, there will always be latency between the input and output. This is because modern digital cameras need to process the footage and send it through various pieces of digital equipment that all add degrees of latency. While video storage delays have gotten lower and lower with time, they are still often noticeable in most contexts.
Latency is also used to describe things in generalized workflow structures and the time it takes to get them done. This usually measures the time it takes for a repetitive process to be started and completed. This is used a lot in many contexts but perhaps is most commonly used within the contexts of travel and international movement.
While it’s nice to know latency if it’s the word of the day sometime, it’s also critical to know it for many more reasons. Knowing and understanding terms can considerably impact your ability to interact within the world and how much you can succeed in life.
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