Two Words Equal Too Many Milliseconds

Blog Post created by bhalle on Jun 19, 2015

Every industry has scary words that come up in meetings over and over. These words can haunt you as you sleep. The words are not accompanied by ghostly shrieks and the rattle of chains. They are marked by silence and the subconscious ticking of milliseconds. The only real sound is the click of a mouse or a tap on the device screen as a potential customer exits to find something faster.  (Note that gamers have a very noisy reaction to these words but I’m keeping it clean for now.)

That’s right. It’s the dreaded Latency and Lag.

Latency is a time interval between stimulation and response. On a device, it’s a time delay in observing a physical change in a system. To your customer, according to webopedia, it’s a waste of time.

Latency has several causes. Physical distance and indirect routing are common issues.  Insufficient bandwidth and congestion can cause delays regardless of distance.

Lag is a noticeable delay between an action and a reaction. This results in impaired device functionality, such as slow application responses and reduced or choppy frame rates. 

Lag is caused by high latency and by insufficient processing power in the client.

Modems like to brag on their bandwidth but network speed is determined by a combination of bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth can be increased but excessive latency still impacts bandwidth by creating bottlenecks. Slowdowns include:

  • Propagation delays as the request travels.
  • Transmission delays from the hardware.
  • Processing delays from proxy servers and network hops on the internet.

Don’t associate lag and latency with big files only. The real problem is most often the hundreds of data packets (little messages) that are sent back and forth when large files are loaded.

Test your own lag by watching a great video on lag by Guy Collins Animation. By the way, the ads don’t count as lag. They’re money in the bag.



Check out Orchestrate Performance to manage your lag and latency. Limelight’s advanced software detects the conditions of your end user’s environment—from browser to bandwidth—and adjusts delivery on the fly for optimum performance. On the network side, we employ boundary-breaking acceleration techniques across our private CDN that are not even imaginable on the public Internet. Take that, lag. When your customer stays with you because of your fast response time, that's money in your bag.