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latency, jitter, and packet loss in plain English

If you’ve read your managed service provider’s SLA (service level agreement) and wondered if you need an advanced degree in engineering to understand it all, don’t worry – you are not alone. Read on to get a plain English definition of these terms, and you’ll be speaking like a networking geek in no time!

Let’s take a look at three important network performance metrics, and learn why they matter to the successful deployment of your VoIP or unified communications service.

Latency

Latency is the time it takes a data packet to travel from point-to-point on the network. Each step your traffic takes through the network will add to its latency. Latency higher than 150 milliseconds (ms) will cause unnatural delays in an audio conversation. On a video call, high latency could create a disconnect between the audio and the video (which I like to call the “badly dubbed movie” effect). If latency becomes too high, you could experience periods of no audio or video at all.

Jitter

You may know jitter as that feeling you get when you drink too much coffee – if so, you might want to consider switching to decaf. The jitter we’re talking about here is an inconsistent arrival of packets between two endpoints. Jitter of more than 20 ms will cause delays in packet arrival which, like high latency, will result in delays in your audio or video.

Packet Loss

Packet loss happens when a packet does not arrive, arrives out of order, or arrives too late. Lost packets don’t go into a “packet lost and found,” though – they’re just discarded. Packet loss over a network will cause choppy, poor-quality audio and video. The good news is that you’d have to have a pretty high level of packet loss for the service to degrade to that state. Even if you lost 3% of all VoIP packets coming in, your audio quality would still be better than what you’d hear on a cell phone.

By the way, the Bandwidth Speed Test on the TPx website will measure the latency (ping) and jitter of your current Internet connection, in addition to your download and upload speeds. Remember, though, that a test like this one is just a snapshot of a moment in time. Try running the test several times, particularly during the times of day when you know your network is busy, and you’ll get a better picture of your network’s VoIP readiness.

Are there any other strange networking terms that have you stumped? If so, just let us know – we’re always happy to help.

With so many people working from home these days, the number of “office” locations has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, 31 percent of remote workers reported being out of the office four to five days a week— up from 24 percent in 2012, according to a recent Gallup survey. And about one in five employees are working from home full-time now, the study suggests.

To be sure, employees are pressing companies to break down historical structures and policies that traditionally have influenced their workdays. And employers are accommodating, primarily for three reasons:

To that last point, emerging cloud technologies are transforming the way work gets done. By using technology solutions like UCx and Managed Office 365, workers increasingly are doing their jobs virtually or remotely – and at various times of the day – instead of from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. And the primary inhibitor for working at home remotely – loneliness – is no longer an issue because these technologies keep colleagues virtually connected. With these high-tech communications tools in place, mingling and collaboration are as easy – and as fun – as congregating by the water cooler.

In fact, contrary to early concerns about remote workers, employees who spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time away from the office have the highest rates of engagement, according to Gallup. It makes sense when you think about it: a video chat or conference to share ideas and documents with a colleague is only a keystroke away.

These new tech and tools are not just being used by remote workers at home. Multilocation businesses are employing them along with private networking, Internet, SIP Trunking and SD-WAN services, among others, to support the growing business and technical demands driven by the proliferation of critical applications, cloud services and mobile devices.

Scalability and flexibility are key. To meet the unique needs, goals and budgets of our business customers, TPx offers these services through a single-source, mix-and-match approach that delivers truly customized solutions for every business scenario. Our customers reap the benefits of constant access to the latest-and-greatest technologies without the headache and expense of managing it all themselves. Small businesses without IT departments get access to the same technologies as larger firms, and larger firms can free up their IT resources for more important proprietary pursuits.

Regardless of which vendor(s) you source for your technologies, using them is becoming a matter of remaining competitive on both sides of the balance sheet. We are experiencing a remarkable digital revolution that is both transforming and distributing the workplace, with web, computing, social and mobile technologies converging to deliver an unprecedented effect on virtually every aspect of business. This convergence is creating new ways for multilocation companies – whether we’re talking storefronts or the home office – to deliver better service, enhanced customer experiences, and retain talent.

About the Author

Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for ITx Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Workstation and Servers Management, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.