Network latency is simply defined as the time delay observed as data transmits from one point to another. Usually, to determine this time delay, the origin and destination points are used. In some cases, network latency may be defined by the time it takes some form of data to make a full circuit back to the originating point.
While it may seem counterproductive to use the round-trip time, it actually can be a much better measure of overall network performance. This is because computers in the process of sending and receiving bytes are in constant communication with each other. Even the one receiving will send information back to the sending machine. Therefore, latency can easily be determined by the round trip time.
The main assumption in network latency is that the time of transmission between the origin and destination should be instantaneous. Of course, there will always be some delay. Even transmission at the speed of light is not instantaneous and can be measured with very precise instruments. Therefore, data on the time delay should always be available.
There are a number of factors that contribute to network latency. These include transmission, propagation, routers and computer hardware delays. In some cases, there may not be a delay the user can notice. Fortunately, if latency does become a problem, there are things that can be done to improve the situation.
In network latency, transmission refers to the medium used to transmit the information. This may be a phone line, fiber optic line or wireless connection, just to name a few examples. Each will contribute to the delay in some way. Some may be faster mediums than other. To help reduce latency, it may be possible to change the medium to a faster type.
Propagation is one of the harder things to control in network latency. Simply put, this is the physical distance between the origin and destination. Naturally, the greater the distance, the more delayed the transmission will be. However, this does not usually cause a significant delay.
The other contributors to network latency, routers and computer hardware, may be able to be changed. In those cases, upgrading this hardware can help process information faster, thus speeding up the process. While this may involve a substantial investment, the benefits may be worth the investment, depending on how much and how often data is transferred.