Of 8 Network Latency Causes, This is the REAL Culprit


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While several factors can influence how quickly and reliably data packets will travel, it’s typically the physical distance between corresponding devices and servers that plays the most significant role in creating delays.

Network Latency is (Mostly) Caused by Distance

Network performance hinges on three key factors: latency, bandwidth, and throughput. 

Latency is the delay in data transmission, often due to physical distance and the medium being used, such as fiber optic versus copper cables. 

Bandwidth is the data transfer capacity, and throughput is the actual data transfer rate. Both bandwidth and throughput are affected by latency.

Most modern businesses, when equipped with efficient transmission mediums and sufficient bandwidth, don’t face severe latency issues related to these factors. This is why upgrading your internet service plan is not a reliable panacea—because it’s usually the physical distance the data must travel rather than limitations in technology or network setup.

If you’re having latency issues, take a look at each of the following elements—starting with distance, of course. 

1. Distance 

When all else is equal, the longer the physical distance between devices and server locations, the greater the latency. When it comes down to it, latency is simply the time it takes for data to move from its source to its destination. Thus, even with data moving at ultra speeds, significant distances can still introduce noticeable delays.

2. Transmission Medium 

Different ways of sending data, like using different cables or wireless connections, can change how fast the data moves. Fiber optic cables are like the express lanes, as they typically cause very little delay.

On the other hand, copper cables and wireless methods are usually slower. The type and quality of the material used for these connections are also important because they affect the maximum rate at which your data can travel, and that also affects how much latency you’ll experience.

3. Hardware 

Network hardware, such as routers, switches, and servers, can contribute to latency if they can’t handle high data volumes efficiently. Older or lower-quality hardware, for example, may take longer to process and forward data packets, leading to an increase in latency for processing and queuing.

4. Website Construction 

The design and complexity of a website can also affect latency. Websites with heavy content—such as those with high-resolution images, videos, and complex scripts—require more data to be loaded. This increases the time it takes for a website to load and become fully interactive, contributing to higher perceived latency.

5. Network Hops 

Each “hop” in a network path, such as when data passes through devices like routers and switches, adds a small delay. The more hops between the source and destination, the greater the cumulative latency. Each hop introduces processing and queuing delays as data packets are inspected and routed towards their destination.

6. Malware 

Malware infections can degrade network performance by consuming bandwidth and interfering with network processes. This can increase latency as the network becomes congested or the malware disrupts normal data flow.

7. Hosting 

The type of web hosting solution you use can impact network latency.

  • Shared Hosting solutions, including websites on shared servers, may experience increased latency due to shared resources among multiple users.
  • Virtual Private Server Hosting offers better control and resource allocation than shared hosting, potentially lowering latency.
  • Cloud Hosting can offer scalable resources and potentially lower latency through distributed resources.
  • Dedicated Hosting provides dedicated resources, which can significantly reduce latency compared to shared environments.

8. Software 

Software efficiency plays a crucial role in network latency, particularly in applications like VoIP phone services. Since VoIP software relies on real-time data transmission, inefficient software can lead to increased latency and negatively affect call quality. Optimizing software and protocols used for data transmission can help mitigate latency issues in VoIP and other applications.

How Do You Know What is Causing Network Latency?

Uncovering the cause of your network latency can be tricky since it can be a variety of factors, from how far data has to travel to how your hardware is performing. That said, there are a few things you can do to help pinpoint why there may be abnormally high latency on your network. 

Network Monitoring

Network monitoring is crucial for identifying and measuring latency. You can use several methods and tools to spot latency in your network.

  • Round-Trip Time (RTT) tells you how long it takes for a signal to go to a destination and back. Longer times mean more delay.
  • Time to First Byte (TTFB) measures how quickly a website starts to load. If it’s slow, it could mean the server itself is causing delays.
  • Ping Command is like a quick check to see how fast data travels in your network.
  • Traceroute shows the path the data takes and where it gets slowed down.
  • MTR (My Traceroute) is a combo tool that uses ping and traceroute to give a more detailed look at where delays might be happening.

Network Mapping 

Network mapping is an essential process in understanding and managing network latency. It involves creating a visual representation of your network’s infrastructure, including all devices, connections, and pathways that data travels through. 

This visualization can also reveal complexities and bottlenecks in the network that may contribute to latency. By examining the network layout, you can identify long pathways, excessive hops, or congested nodes that might be causing delays. Network mapping tools can even provide real-time data about network performance, making it easier to spot issues as they are happening.

Troubleshoot Manually

We know troubleshooting can be time-consuming and tedious, but it’s often the most effective way to identify and correct network latency issues. To make the process easier, be strategic. Create a list of potential latency sources and check them in order rather than haphazardly tinkering with various components. 

Taking a methodical approach to troubleshooting gives you a systematic way of eliminating each possible cause, ultimately reducing guesswork and increasing the efficiency of your discovery process. By following a structured plan, you can pinpoint the source of the problem and apply the appropriate solutions to regain optimum network performance.

Analyzing Application Performance

Sometimes the cause of perceived network latency lies within specific applications. Analyzing the performance of applications—especially those that are heavily reliant on network connectivity, such as call routing software or CRMs—can shed light on whether the latency is a network issue or an application-specific problem. 

Be sure to check out tools designed specifically for application performance monitoring, as these can track response times, transaction paths, and other metrics that impact user experience.

5 Ways to Fix Network Latency

Effectively addressing network latency requires a multifaceted approach that considers various aspects of the network’s infrastructure and configuration. Here are five practical ways to fix network latency and enhance your overall network performance.

1. CND 

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a widespread network of servers and data centers located around the globe. Its core function is to store and manage data, making it more accessible and faster to retrieve from various locations. 

This network setup is beneficial not just for website content but also for internet-based services like VoIP. 

For call center VoIP in particular, a CDN ensures that voice data is transmitted from a nearby server, enhancing call clarity and reliability. By reducing the distance data needs to travel, a CDN optimizes the speed and quality of the service whether it’s loading a website or connecting a voice call.

2. Edge Computing

Edge computing focuses on processing data close to where it’s generated instead of relying on a central data center that’s far away. 

This method reduces the distance data needs to travel, leading to faster processing and lower delays. It’s also particularly effective in environments where rapid response times are crucial, like call centers. 

For instance, a call center may find edge computing to be useful for real-time analytics. By enabling local data processing, edge computing ensures more efficient data handling—which is essential for the high-speed demands of modern call center technologies.

3. Upgrade Network Infrastructure 

Upgrading network infrastructure means replacing old parts like routers and cables with newer, faster ones. For example, switching from old copper cables to fiber-optic cables, or getting better routers. These upgrades help move and process data faster, cutting down on delays in the network.

4. Get New Hardware & Software 

Buying new, modern hardware and updating your software can greatly improve how well your network functions. Newer computers and network tools can handle data better and faster, which helps reduce network latency.

5. Subnetting 

Subnetting breaks a big network into smaller parts. This helps prevent too many devices from overloading the network, reduces slowdowns, and makes it easier to handle network traffic. It also simplifies managing and fixing network issues, which keeps the network running smoothly.

4 Stats That Will Have You Fixing Your Network Latency Now

Like it or not, network latency has a profound effect on customer behavior and the success of your business. Here are a few supporting reasons why that is:

  1. A two-second delay in webpage load time can increase bounce rates by 103%. 
  2. 53% of mobile site visitors won’t wait longer than three seconds for a page to load. 
  3. A site that loads in one second has a conversion rate that’s three times higher than a site that loads in five seconds.
  4. A one-second delay decreases customer satisfaction by nearly 20%.
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