How to Fix Packet Loss: 5 Common Causes and Solutions

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We are living in an era where most of our communication occurs through the internet. Whether we are sitting in the office and sending emails or working from home, we want uninterrupted communications. Similarly, gamers and housewives watching videos and tutorials want a pleasant experience without any delay. This is because delays result in losing games and frustration for users. That’s the reason everyone wants to learn how to fix packet loss.             

An internet user must be able to understand that packet arrival in a network is the key to high performance. Therefore, understanding these concepts becomes essential to troubleshoot this problem.

Let’s dive deep into the subject and understand the ins and outs of packet loss.

What is a Packet Loss?

In networking, “ a packet is a small unit of a large message”. 

Whenever we send data using a computer network, for example, through the internet, it is divided into small data packets. These packets are reassembled when any device receives them. When one or more of these small units of data fails to reach its targeted destination, network disruption occurs. This is called packet loss. 

From the user’s end, you will either experience slow services or complete loss of network connectivity. For example you might have experienced an email message taking a long time to go through. Although all the applications may get affected by the packet loss, mostly it happens in case of videos and games. This happens because these applications are based on real-time packet processing. 

 What Causes Packet Loss?

We know that business depends on a reliable network and packet losses can pose serious threats on business effeciency. 

There are several reasons that may cause packet loss. For example, when the network is too busy, it loses the packet . Simply put, when too many people are sending data through a particular router, that router slows down and starts losing some of the data that is sent. 

Similarly when you have some corrupted software installed in your system, it may hinder the way of data transmission. 

Before we discuss how to get rid of packet loss,  it is necessary to develop a complete understanding of the factors that may lead to packet loss.

 Here are some of the reasons that cause packet loss:

1. Security Problems

A cyber attack can cause packet loss. Sometimes a hacker may take control of a network device and send such malicious commands to the router that lead to packet loss.

Let’s understand the mechanism behind this. Cyberattack on your network device may change the behavior of databases and other network resources in a manner that it drops data packets for the actual users. They can detect it when they are trying to download sensitive information and there occurs a sudden packet loss.  This is an indication that some kind of cybersecurity breach has occurred and you need to stop the packet loss. 

Another thing which is associated with the cyber attack causing packet loss is called a denial-of-service attack (DoS). In this case the actual user is unable to access their data such as files , emails or their online accounts because there is a cybersecurity threat. The attackers can flood the network with too much traffic that causes packet loss. However, you can fix this problem if you are able to block the IP address of the attacker. 

2. Too Much Traffic

This point can be easily understood from the example that when there are too many cars on the road, it might take you long to reach your destination.  Just like this, networks have limited spaces, and they have a capacity beyond which they cannot perform.  When all your team is sending or receiving data, delays may occur and you may experience packet loss. This is the most common cause of packet loss. 

3. Hardware Problems

If you have perfect ingredients to cook but if you own a poor quality utensil for cooking, you won’t get the desired results. Similarly, old, obsolete, or damaged hardware devices such as routers, cables, corrupted network cards, switches, and firewalls can negatively affect your network performance and create packet loss.

4. Some Bugs in Software 

Some errors, faults, or flaws in your computer programs can cause packet loss. These are called software bugs. Bugs can seriously interfere in the functioning of the device and the outputs that it produces. 

5. Faulty Configuration

Before understanding how configuration can cause packet loss, it is necessary to understand the different modes used in networking. 

When a device on a network is set in a manner that the signal is sent in both directions at the same time, it is said to be set on full-duplex mode. In half-duplex mode, both devices can transmit the signal, but one at a time.

Configuration error occurs when network devices on a single link are set at two different duplex modes. For example, if one device on the internet is configured for full-duplex and the other one is set on half-duplex, a collision occurs that may result in packet loss causing delay and discarding of the data transmitted.

How to Detect Packet Loss

Now you may want to know how to reduce packet loss by first accurately detecting packet loss. 

For detection, you can use tools like ping and traceroute. By consistently sending ping packets, you will be able to determine that there is a packet loss on the network. Some of the tools that are discussed later in the article can monitor and detect packet loss as well along with fixing them. 

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How to Fix Packet Loss

There are methods you can use to fix packet loss. Some of the most common ways are as follows:

1. Fix the Physical Connection Properly

Make sure that all your cables are properly plugged in and are not defective by any means.  Take the example of ethernet cables used on your network. In case these ethernet cables are damaged, packet loss will occur. This happens because the compromised cables will increase the electrical signal to travel along with the data that is being sent, causing packet loss.

You need to be quality conscious while buying your cables and for example, a Cat 5 is considered good to support smooth functioning in small business. This quality requirement changes with the bandwidth requirements of your company. Also, you must check if the exterior coating/ jacket is firm enough and durable.

2. Replace Defective Hardware Devices

For the information to process in time and to reduce packet loss in the form of delays, you need to keep your hardware device up to date. This can be your computer that doesn’t have much capacity to handle the number of programs or your obsolete router. 

You should keep monitoring your device to detect this problem. In case you are a business owner, investing in upgrading your hardware devices will help you manage slow data transmission issues. Having an IT expert in your team becomes necessary in this case. 

3. Restart your Device

Most of the time, if you are facing packet loss, you can get a flow in data transmission as soon as you restart your network devices such as a computer and your router. 

4. Counter Software bugs

You may analyze software bugs if your applications are taking too much time to process. You mustn’t ignore software updates like we usually do. Immediate fixing packet loss requires restarting the application or reboot your hardware. Usually, this leads to an improvement in performance speed. 

5. QoS Setting

Quality of Service setting is another option that you may use in case your network is busy transmitting real-time data such as games, calls. You will be able to manage packet loss by channelizing the resources according to the need. For example, you prioritize network traffic according to voice or video traffic because you have a preference for that. 

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Tools to Help You Monitor and Fix Packet Loss

There are many tools available for SMEs and big businesses to monitor and fix packet loss. For troubleshooting packet loss, some of the tools are as discussed below. 

1. Network Performance Monitor

The network Performance monitor is a tool that helps you check the service quality of your network.Using this tool, You may visualize, monitor, and trouble all performance issues.

Now the question that may arise is how this tool collects data? The answer is that it uses a variety of sources such as flow data, packets, and SNMP. Combining data from all the sources can help you understand things in a more clear manner.

There are both options available for the network-performance appliances,  in-premises or cloud-based. However, a combination may be used to gain maximum advantage in terms of monitoring the losses and fixing it.  

2. PRTG Network Monitor

This is a network-monitoring software that you can easily run on a Windows device connected to your network. It works by collecting statistics from routers, switches, servers, and other important devices or applications. The benefit is that it will detect any issues that cause packet loss by sending alerts to the administrator such as a threat of a cyberattack. 

You can easily download, install, and configure PRTG on-premises and start monitoring. 

The mechanism behind the PRTG monitor is that it works by using sensors. There are application sensors as well as hardware sensors for servers, switches, and routers. The sensors are the individual monitoring entities and PRTG has more than 200 sensors pre-configured on it. These sensors provide statistics from the monitored entities, such as their response times, bandwidth usage and memory. 

3. OP Manager

OP Manager is another network monitoring product that manages the network for large enterprises. 

This tool offers visibility of everything in the network infrastructure of your enterprise. OP manager uses SNMP and keeps checking the network health across all the devices.

Regarding packet loss, OpManager uses SNMP to constantly monitor your network health across all devices. The specific alerts regarding the packet loss inform you that a packet loss has occurred and the devices that are causing the packet loss. By clicking on the alerts, you can detect and prevent packet loss.

4. Nagios XI

The Nagios XI is another network monitoring software and is an enterprise server.  Installing the plug-in makes Nagios XI particularly suited for packet loss fix and prevention. Nagios XI is built with a web interface using which you can easily monitor data, detect and fix packet loss. 

Summary

From small businesses to big enterprises, packet loss issues can negatively affect performance problems. If packet loss is not done intentionally for some operational reasons, then this problem is handled on a priority basis by IT professionals because they know how to fix high packet loss.

There is a need to invest  in your physical infrastructure, create a plan that helps you recover data in case of permanent losses, update firewalls and software always and keep the latest antivirus software in place. Big business enterprises have complex and expensive network monitoring tools in place for packet loss fix. However, following the above suggestions on how to fix packet loss can be helpful for you to understand the concept and choose the best options for you.

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