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Understanding Latency

The internet is a nebulous concept for most of us, but the basic details of how it works are important to understand when you’re running a server or start troubleshooting connection issues to one. We’re going to take a broad, high-level look at what happens when you connect to a WinterNode server, what may cause your connection/latency issues, and what can be done to mitigate them.

It’s important to note that the Internet as a whole is not under the control of any one authority and there are often connection problems that are out of anyone’s control. We provide a tutorial on pinpointing which network is at fault if anything done about it by Running WinMTR.

Distance between locations

The distance between you and the server you’re trying to connect to is the most constant and important factor when it comes to connectivity. From the simplest perspective, the further away geographically you are from the server location the larger the delay, or ping, will be. But more specifically, there are other factors that can affect the apparent distance between you and the server.
We’ll go more into the concept of what happens over the connection in the next section, but the general idea is that it’s never a straight path, and the path it does take changes constantly. So while you may get a good latency value one day, the next day it could suck. The same goes for paths of equal distance, especially when crossing country borders or large bodies of water.

Wide Area Disruption

The Global Internet acts as a massive web of connections, meaning there isn’t one continuous cable between every point on the internet. Even in your own home network you’ll connect to your router before connecting to another device on your network, breaking the direct cable connection between any two devices. In the Global Internet, each time that jump happens, the connection could have to change direction, speed, or even get dropped.
To complicate the matter, each packet gets to choose what path it takes depending on the status of the nodes. Pathing can get very complicated, but the general idea is that there is a system in place that rates the health of nodes on the network, both local and global, so that packets can balance the chances of being dropped, the speed of arriving at their destination, and the physical distance it takes.
When talking in regards to Latency and Connection Stability, this means that if any part of the network you’re making use of goes down or starts experiencing higher than normal load, then you’ll experience the same issues until either those issues are resolved or your packets can locate a better route. You may notice this during Peak Usage Hours when your internet is slower or you have higher ping. If you’re one of the lucky ones it won’t affect you much, but for some people or during some Peak Loads, it’ll cripple the connection.

Packet Loss

We’ve mentioned Packets a couple of times already, though not by name, and without getting into the weeds of what they are, each Packet contains a discrete amount of data sent from you, the client, to the server. Packets can be lost or damaged between Client and Server due to any number of issues between the two points, but most of the time the protocol in use is able to make up for the Unreadable or Lost Packets by sending a new one. But it will eventually reach a point that you’ll notice the connection become unstable or disconnect entirely.
The bigger issue arises when you have to find the source of the packet loss, the best method of doing so is Running WinMTR. WinMTR essentially sends multiple packets to each stop on the route and tests its connectivity and stability. Ideally it’s one of the network connections under the control of someone you know, IE your router or a WinterNode connection, but more often than not it’s one of the many ISP zones you have to travel through to get to your destination.
If it’s an issue with your local network you can try restarting your router or contacting your ISP, If it’s within the WinterNode network then you should reach out to us and we’ll contact our providers to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but anywhere in between is up to the ISP’s who own those connections. They will most likely fix the connection soon, because they don’t want a poor connection any more than you do, but some areas are more prone to these types of errors than others.

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