Epik Cisco Premier Partner Logo

How To Fix Packet Loss - Top Common Causes And Solutions

Updated: July 29, 2020

    Your network’s performance is essential to your business. And when it comes to monitoring your network’s performance, there’s nothing more important than knowing how to track and stop packet data loss. 

    Here’s the thing, your data is broken down into small packets in order to be transmitted from one computer to another over the Internet. By breaking down your data, the network can distribute its load more evenly across different pieces of equipment and virtual paths, increasing its performance. But when your data is broken down into packets, there’s always a small chance that it might be lost or degraded. 

    Now, the good thing is that your data may not be lost forever, but the data loss or degradation might cause some performance issues. 

    Let’s take a look at what packet loss is and how you can reduce and fix it. 

    Packet Loss Illustration

    What Is Packet Loss?

    All the data you send over the Internet, whether it’s an email, a file, voice communication, and videos, can be considered an information packet. Whenever you send data, it will take the most efficient path to its destination. But sometimes, not all the information you send reaches its destination successfully. The farther your data has to travel, the higher its chances of being lost or degraded during the transmittal.

    You’ve probably known about Internet packet loss for a long time now, albeit under a different name - latency. Latency occurs when some data packets get lost in transit. The chances of experiencing latency are higher when you use a long-distance Internet connection because the packets have to travel farther, so their chances of reaching their exact destination are smaller. 

    Packet loss slows down your network speeds, causes bottlenecks, and throws off your network’s throughput and bandwidth. 

    As far as VoIP systems are concerned, packet loss can disrupt your communication. When you receive a call over a VoIP system, the call starts as a recorded sound that’s transmitted over the Internet. The system breaks down the sound in small, encrypted packets to ensure they reach their destination quickly. But if some of the packets get lost during transit, your communication will lag and might even be garbled. 

    And packet loss can also be expensive because you’ll have to improve your IT infrastructure and bandwidth to accommodate the lag. 

    What Is Causing Packet Loss?

    Packet loss has many potential causes. Most of them are unintentional, but some of them might be closely related to the proficiency of your IT or networking specialists.

    Icon Networked Computers

    1. Network Congestion

    You could think of data packets as small cars travelling across your network like automobiles going down on a highway. When all your employees are on lunch break, the highway is clear and the packets can reach their intended destination in record time. 

    But when all your team is working, sending and receiving data from multiple sources, the network gets crowded, much like a highway during rush hour. There are simply too many cars on the road. 

    And things get even worse when the four-lane highway suddenly narrows into a two-lane road and multiple cars have to merge at the same time. Inevitably, some cars will waste a lot of time waiting to merge into the narrow road and will not reach their destination when they should. 

    Just like highways, networks have their own space limitations, so they might get congested from time to time. When your network traffic reaches its maximum capacity, the data packets will have to wait for their turn in order to be delivered. 

    But unlike highways, networks sometimes try to catch up with the traffic, and the first thing they do to achieve this is leaving some packets behind. However, modern software producers are aware of this, and they program the software to circle back and make sure that the discarded data goes through. They manage this by either slowing down the transfer speeds to allow each packet to pass or by resending the data.

    How To Detect Network Congestion 

    If your network has a high amount of congestion, you will likely experience higher than normal loss rates, which translates into high latency and jitter increases. When monitoring your network, track these factors and see how they vary throughout the day. 

    Congestion might last a few minutes or longer, but if you record anything less than the speeds agreed with your ISP, that’s a clear sign of bandwidth congestion. 

    How To Fix Bandwidth Congestion 

    Begin by monitoring and tracking your network’s performance. If the cause of your network congestion is related to the time your data is being transmitted, you can easily fix the problem by sending out the information at a time when your network is clear and uncongested. 

    This might be more difficult to achieve when it comes to VoIP, but you could try scheduling conferences with large numbers of attendants during non-peak times. 

    You could also prioritize your traffic to ensure that the most important information is sent along first, followed by second-most important information, and so forth. Optimizing your network flow can reduce congestion. 

    You should also talk to your ISP to check if there are any options available to provide more bandwidth during the busiest times of your workday. 

    Icon Servers Stacked Vertically

    2. Network Hardware Problems

    Hardware plays an important role in transferring your information across the Internet. Old and outdated hardware can seriously weaken your network. Your network’s switches, routers, firewalls, etc., all play a part in your network’s efficiency. If your company grows but you don’t upgrade your hardware capabilities, you might experience packet loss or even total connectivity loss. 

    Duplex mismatches can also be a cause of packet loss. Duplex communication allows devices connected over the Internet to send and receive data. When two connected devices operate in different duplex modules, the link between them is not very efficient. 

    This generally means that one device is functioning at a full-duplex mode, while the other is working in a half-duplex setting. When a device is working in a half-duplex, it means that even though the signals travel both ways, they can only travel in one direction at once. 

    If a device is in half-duplex and the other is experiencing full-duplex functionality, packet loss can occur. 

    How To Detect Hardware Problems 

    Some computers might send you an error message to let you know that a specific piece of hardware is not working properly. Make sure you monitor all the hardware that could be outdated and check how it performs over time. You should note any malfunctions in the device’s hardware logs and compare them with the other malfunctions you register in your system. 

    How To Fix Hardware Problems

    If you believe a piece of hardware is causing packet loss, the best way to eliminate the loss is to upgrade and replace the faulty equipment. This is especially true if the hardware is often not performing as it should. 

    You could also consider hiring a dedicated IT specialist to update and service your hardware, which might minimize your packet loss.

    Icon Hardware Cable

    3. Faulty Networking Wires

    If your business relies on a wired network, the Ethernet cables can sometimes be the reason for your packet loss. Ethernet cables handle a lot of data traffic, so you might experience packet loss if they somehow get deteriorated because the data will not be sent efficiently. 

    Any cable that’s damaged or not connected properly can lose some of the electrical signals that travel along with your data. Dirty fiber connectors can also affect your data traffic and lead to packet loss. 

    How To Detect Faulty Network Wires

    If you monitor your network and suspect that faulty wires are responsible for your packet loss, you should check the cables thoroughly to see if you can spot any exterior damage. Make sure you also check the network connection points to see if they’re secure. 

    How To Fix Faulty Network Cables 

    If faulty network cables are to blame for your packet loss, the easiest solution is to replace the wires and improve your connection path. 

    Make sure that you choose a proper category of network wire - a Cat 5 should be strong enough for a small business but you should go for a higher category if your Internet connection is faster than 1 Mbps. 

    Make sure that the jacket on the wire is durable and won’t abrade easily, and shield the cables that run together to prevent signal interference.

    Icon Software Application

    4. Software Problems

    Unchecked bugs or non-updated software can disrupt your network’s performance and prevent it from successfully transmitting all your data packets. 

    Sometimes, the problem is very easy to solve - you simply have to reboot the hardware. But other times, software bugs might lead to unexpected behaviour on your network. When the software has an error in its programming, restarting your hardware won’t solve anything. 

    How To Detect Software Problems 

    When monitoring your network, check to see if specific apps or software takes up a lot of your bandwidth, even when it’s not being used. The easiest way to do this is by opening the Task Manager on your computer and tracking how your apps are communicating with the network. 

    The Task Manager even has a tab that will show you the history of how the app has behaved in the previous 30 days so you can compare the log with the latency you’re experiencing. 

    How To Fix Software Issues

    If the software is taking up too much of your network’s bandwidth, you should try restarting the application or rebooting your hardware. If the problem persists, you should look for an update to improve the software’s performance. 

    Sometimes, the software might have known bugs and you might have to wait for the development team to release a solution. If this happens, you could consider an alternative software that doesn’t have so many bugs and doesn’t lead to packet loss.

    Icon Bad Hard Drive

    5. Overloaded Devices

    The devices in your network can sometimes become overloaded. This means that your system is processing more data than what it was designed to handle. Packets sent on over-utilized devices sometimes reach their destination but the network doesn’t have the capacity to process them and send them back out. 

    Most devices have buffers in place to put the data packets on hold until they can be sent out. However, even these buffers can sometimes be overwhelmed and excess packets might be dropped. 

    How To Detect Overloaded Devices 

    When monitoring your network, perform a low-bandwidth activity on multiple computers in your network. If everything looks fine, perform a high-bandwidth activity on multiple computers. If you notice any intermittent dropped connections or if your downloads are interrupted on multiple computers, one of your networking devices might be faulty. 

    Determine whether you experience packet loss as a result of network performance issues rather than overloaded devices by using different combinations of simultaneous device use. If the packet loss appears only when using a specific combination of devices, then your problem is a performance-related one. If the problem appears on all combinations of devices, it’s likely a device overload-related one. 

    How To Fix Device Overload 

    The first thing you should do is restarting your device, whether it’s a router, a switch, or anything else. Shut the device down, plug it out, wait for about one or two minutes, plug it back in, and restart it. 

    If this temporarily fixes your problem, the device might be overloaded because it gets too hot. Try moving the device in a well-ventilated area. 

    If your device doesn’t seem too hot to the touch and restarting it doesn’t fix the problem, you should check for any available firmware updates. 

    If updating your firmware doesn’t solve the problem, you might be able to reduce the packet loss by replacing the device or by adding a second one with the same function.

    Icon Security Camera

    6. Network Attacks

    You cannot rule out the possibility of someone deliberately interfering with your network and causing packet loss. Cybercriminals have used packet drop attacks more frequently in recent years. If you notice a sudden spike in packet drops or a significant decrease in network speed, you might be in the midst of a cyber attack. 

    Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks restrict legitimate users from accessing their online accounts, emails, or files because of a security threat. Cyber-criminals carry out DoS attacks by directing more traffic on the network than it can handle. The attackers take advantage of the network’s vulnerability to steal data. 

    How To Detect A Network Attack  

    The first thing you’ll notice during an attack is that your network is much slower than usual. Your VoIP calls will jitter, and your browsers will barely load websites. If you monitor your network, you will see that there’s a lot of new activity going on. 

    How To Fix A Network Attack 

    If your system is under attack, there’s not a lot of things you can do. But if you catch the hackers in the middle of the attack, you can block their IP address and prevent them from accessing the network. 

    When it comes to cybersecurity, the best approach is to prepare for the worst. You should invest in cybersecurity solutions and create data recovery plans.

    How To Reduce Packet Loss

    If you don’t have the time to pinpoint the cause of your network’s packet loss as we explained in the previous section, but you still want to improve the quality of your data transfers, you can try one of the following options for a quick fix: 

    • Restart Your System - Are you familiar with the phrase “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Well, most support specialists recommend it because it works. Restarting your system can refresh your network and get rid of any small bugs or glitches. 
    • Use Cable Over Wi-Fi - Everything is connected over Wi-Fi nowadays, but Ethernet cables can help transfer your data packets successfully. Fiber-optic connections are even better at delivering your data packets to their intended destination.
    • Check Your Connections - Sometimes the problem might be more obvious than you’d think. Check your connections and make sure every cable and port is plugged in correctly. 
    • Update Your Software - Keep in mind that developers don’t release updates for no reason. Keep your software up to date to prevent glitches and bugs that might lead to packet loss.
    • Replace Outdated Hardware - Nobody wants to invest in hardware, but sometimes replacing your outdated pieces of hardware with new ones is the only way to keep your system running at optimal capacity. 

    Optimize Your Bandwidth Consumption - Things like Bluetooth headphones, cameras, speakers, firewalls, etc, can take up a lot of bandwidth. You could try to shut some of them down when you want to transfer packets without interference.

    How Can Packet Loss Impact Your Business

    Packet loss affects businesses differently depending on the protocols and standards they use. If your business uses the TCP protocol, then your network will deal with packet loss more efficiently than a network that uses the UDP protocol. 

    Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) negates packet loss because it re-transmits the data packets constantly. So if a packet gets lost on a first transmission, the second transmission will pick it up and deliver it to reconstruct the data stream. 

    Now, it’s worth noting that your network will lose some time transmitting the data when this happens, but you’ll still experience low latency. However, if you make multiple VoIP calls or use other high-bandwidth apps in these conditions, your system’s transfer speed will be affected. 

    If your business uses the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and you experience packet loss, you’ll have to manually resend the data because UDP does not use a data re-transmission protocol. When UDP connections lose packets, the data arriving at the destination may be incomplete or corrupted. 

    The Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a communication system that’s vulnerable to packet loss. And when this system loses data, your call quality might get distorted, which may affect your business in a significant way. 

    Packet loss can cause problems with VoIP calling and conferencing, but you can take preventive measures to make sure that it doesn’t. By using a hosted PBX solution over fiber-optic internet, you ensure that your data packets are grouped and delivered successfully to their destination.

    Best Tools To Reduce Packet Loss

    1. VoIP & Network Quality Manager

    The VoIP & Network Quality Manager was designed to ensure successful VoIP delivery. By monitoring the data from Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager and Avaya’s Aura Communication Manager, the software allows you to easily identify what’s causing your system’s latency or what’s affecting your call jitters.

    2. Network Performance Monitor

    The Network Performance Monitor is a comprehensive network monitoring solution. With the help of a wide array of network monitoring tools, the software gives you a detailed insight of what’s going on in your network at all times. This performance optimization solution is great for those who have to monitor large network systems because it can help them identify the problem in a short amount of time. 

    3. PRTG Network Monitor

    The PRTG Network Monitor uses various sensors to identify and display your data packet loss rate. You can set up automatic alerts and receive notifications every time a critical value is exceeded, and you can identify and eliminate the source of your packet loss in short order. By using this software, you can find out what causes your packet loss, solve the problem, and reduce the strain on your hardware in quick succession. 

    4. Nagios XI

    The Nagios XI catalogs all the devices connected to your network and shows up their performance metrics on a highly customizable dashboard. This performance optimization solution gives you all the information you need to plan ahead and reduce the risk of high packet loss in the future. The software generates capacity graphs that make planning ahead easy and sends alerts and notifications to your IT staff every time there’s a problem with your network.

    5. OpManager

    OpManager is a great tool, but unlike the ones we previously mentioned which are great for small to large businesses, this one is better suited for multi-vendor enterprise networks. This software has a clean and sophisticated dashboard that offers in-depth visibility into your network infrastructure, allowing you to pinpoint the source of your packet loss inside a vast network. 

    Protect Your Business From Packet Loss

    Identifying, troubleshooting, and preventing packet loss is essential for your network’s performance. Even though there’s no surefire way to eliminate packet loss altogether, you can take steps toward improving your packet loss situation. 

    At Epik Networks, we strive to minimize packet loss and ensure high-quality data transfers at all times. By combining our fiber-optic Internet with our Hosted PBX solution, your packets will sail smoothly to their destination. 

    Contact one of our product specialists and find out how we can help solve your packet loss. 

    Notification

    COVID-19 Update: See Epik Networks response to support our customers. We’re offering free Cisco WebEx Work-from-Home Solution to everyone.

    Prefer to speak to a real person?
    Start a call or chat instead
    Ms Society Logo Transparent
    “It worked flawlessly out of the gate. Everything was easy to set up, the reliability was there and when we did the cost benefit analysis it really made good business sense to move onto that platform. And we haven’t looked back...”
    David Arbuthnot
    VP Information Technology, MS Society
    Let Us Tailor a Solution for You for Free.
    We can help you make your next IT project successful, profitable, and secure. 
    Prefer to speak to a real person?
    Start a call or chat instead
    Free Webex Covid 19 Featured 800x419
    Get Webex FREE for 90 Days
    For a limited time, and in response to the global pandemic, Epik Networks and Cisco are offering free Webex licenses for 90 days. Get your free Webex license today.

    Notification

    COVID-19 Update: See Epik Networks response to support our customers. We’re offering free Cisco WebEx Work-from-Home Solution to everyone.

    crosswarning linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram