Ping is a network utility used to test how quickly a message can be sent on a round-trip from a computer, to a server, and back again.
To “ping” a server is to run a test to measure the responsiveness of the server and the network connecting the server to the computer performing the test. Network administrators use ping tests to gauge network responsiveness and to route network traffic more efficiently.
The term “ping” has two different sources. First, it is borrowed from sonar terminology where it is used to describe a pulse of sound echoing off of an object underwater. Second, the term is an acronym for Packet InterNet Groper.
A ping test begins when packets of information are sent over a network, such as the Internet, to a target host. The host receives the packets and echoes back a reply. The round-trip time between transmission of the packets to receipt of the echoed reply, along with any errors that have occurred and packets lost along the way, combine to make up the results of the ping test. Quite often the server will be pinged multiple times and the results compiled and analyzed to produce a profile of network and server performance.
It is also common for network administrators to initiate a ping flood in which the computer initiating the test sends out ping requests as quickly as possible without waiting to receive replies. The goal of a ping flood is to measure server performance under a heavy load. While this is a valuable testing method when used appropriately, hackers sometimes take advantage of this tool and use it as part of a denial-of-service attack.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does ping testing affect the average Internet user?
When you access the Internet you do so by using an Internet Service Provider's (ISP) network. Not all ISP networks are created equal. A ping test is one of the measures used to determine the performance of an Internet connection. If you want to know how quickly your ISP is responding check out Ookla's free SpeedTest.
If you happen to have a website you can also test the responsiveness of the web server hosting your site using a ping test. Pingdom offers a free web server ping testing service that is easy to use.
What is a good ping test result for an Internet connection?
According to Ookla, if you want to do things like stream video, use interactive applications, and use VoIP services like Skype, you will want an Internet connection with a ping test speed under 100 ms with 0% packet loss. If you plan to engage in things like complex, multi-player, online games look for a connection that responds quicker than 50 ms. If your ISP responds more slowly than 150 ms or is losing packets, you are probably dealing with a problem that your ISP needs to be aware of.
Of course, ping test performance is only one part of overall ISP performance. Other critical factors you need to take into consideration are download and upload speeds.