Packets

The Internet transmits data from one computer to another by breaking the data down into small manageable units that are known as packets. A packet is defined as a small chunk of digital data (like an Email or a Picture) that contains both a sender address and an address to where the packet is supposed to go. A single image could contain anywhere from just a handful of packets to upwards of 10,000 depending on a variety of factors.

The process of determining where packets go is called routing, or selecting a path for traffic in a network. An instance of non packet routing might be a computer that controls car traffic on streets and roads. If a road is becoming too crowded, traffic lights that allow cars to go onto that road might turn red in order to prevent any more cars from coming on. A road might even be under construction, so no cars are able to enter that road. Detour signs might route the cars to other roads that are more accessible in order for the cars to get to their destination.

The main goal of routing on the Internet is to try to deliver packets as fast and as efficiently as possible. A certain connection might only be able to transfer a certain number of packets per minute, so if the connection isn’t able to transfer them quickly enough, a new path for the packets to go will need to be found by a router, or a computer that changes the path for packet traffic. If some connection is broken or doesn’t function, the router needs to find a new path for the data to get to its destination, otherwise the packets will never be delivered.

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