Hearing people complain about ping is not something new. It is a term that is frequently heard. Even if you do not know what it means, you can always google for a ping test and run one yourself. They are simple but what does ping mean? Seeing the results of a ping test means nothing if you do not know what they mean and how they affect your internet connection.
What is Ping?
In the world of networking, there are many ways to measure the performance of a network. You can monitor transfer rates or how much data per second can your internet connection handle. However, while most people look at megabytes per second, very few look at ping.
Ping is a unit of measure that tells how long it takes for a packet of data to be sent and a reply to be received. It is a round trip measured in milliseconds. Think of it as the maximum speed of a car. It tells you how fast you can go but it does not tell you how much you can carry. The thunk volume of a car can be associated with internet bandwidth which is usually measured in megabits per second or Mbps.
Getting back to the question of what does ping mean, ping plays an important role, especially when using applications that send small bits of data at a high frequency. Each packet sent requires confirmation or a reply from the recipient or destination host. When you are sending small packets constantly, you will automatically expect a lot of replies from the destination server. A high ping means that your network card cannot send packets at a fast enough rate. For example, instead of sending one packet every second, your network card sends one every 2 seconds. In networking, anything above 100ms is considered slow.
What Ping Means For Your Day to Day Internet Use
Your ping can be low, high, or have intermittent spikes. A low ping can mean plenty of things depending on what you use your internet for. Gaming is the most punishing activity when it comes to high ping. For shooters, in particular, you need a ping that is 50ms or lower. These fast-paced games require low input lag thus every action you perform with a mouse and keyboard needs to be reflected on the screen as soon as possible. For RTS games where the pace is much toned down, a 150ms ping is considered acceptable.
For streaming applications, ping only matters after a certain point. You can stream a video just fine even with a 250ms ping. However, as you reach higher values that go beyond 500ms, you may experience issues. The video may start interrupting, it may jump ahead due to packets arriving late or it may even desynchronize the video from the audio.
Overall, if you want a short answer to what does ping mean, you should also ask what you are using your internet for. For a gamer, the lower the better. For anything else, as long as your ping is below 250ms, you should be just fine.
The worst place you never want to be is when your ping has intermittent spikes. This means that your ping may now be 50ms and in 1 second it jumps to 300ms, then back to 50ms and again it jumps to high values. For gamers, even if the peak ping is not very high, it can make certain games unplayable. For anything else, it may not cause any noticeable effects.
What Influences Your Ping
Your ping is influenced by a lot of things. While ping is a unit of measure of how fast you can send and receive packets towards a destination, your ping can fluctuate depending on what destination you are trying to reach.
When talking about what does ping mean, we need to factor in the distance that the packet travels. Your ping towards a server that is located in the US cannot be the same as the ping towards a server in Germany. This is just one example. The closer you are to the destination server, the lower your ping gets. This is why professional gamers are forced to relocate closer to the area where a game server is located. This helps them decrease their ping in the game that they are playing at a professional level.
Another factor that influences your ping is related to the hardware you are using. An old home router, aged networking cables, and an old network card in your computer can cause a higher than ideal ping. Swapping these with a few upgrades can improve your ping.
Ping can also be affected by software problems. Network card drivers can become corrupted. At the same time, other applications that are using your internet in the background can cause a hike in ping or ping spikes. At the same time, your router may have software bugs that cause it to lose or delay sending or receiving packets.
Lastly, ping is also influenced by ISPs. Even if you have a contract with one ISP, by the time a data packet reaches its destination, it will go through multiple networks belonging to other ISPs. If there is an issue along the way, your ping can spike. Also, if one of their pieces of equipment does not know the most optimal route to send your packet towards the destination, it will cause your packet to take a longer route and thus it will increase your ping.
To sum things up, the answer to what does ping mean is very simple. Think of it as a unit of measure that tells you how fast you can send a data packet to a destination. Like with anything that travels, distance is important. The longer the distance you need to travel, the more it will take for you to get where you need to be. Since the internet works over optic fiber cables, we are talking about data that can travel at light speed. However, sometimes, along the way, things can happen that increase your ping.
Having a low ping is important. There are many factors at play that can increase your ping. As detailed above, there are many variables. If you do a ping test, make sure it tests your ping towards multiple destinations across different countries and continents. Such a test could give you an overall picture of the health of your internet connection.