Network traffic – or any computer traffic – is the amount of data sent across a connection. That means that whatever data is sent across, for example, an internet connection or from a hard drive to a CPU, is the amount of traffic on that particular connection.
Generally, this data is broken down into packets, no matter what type of connection. In the case of the internet, this would be network packets passed along using various internet protocols. For PC parts to communicate, information would be broken down into specific byte-sized sections and then transmitted.
Several elements are needed in the Elements of ‘Traffic’Too correctly route, transmit and receive any data traffic. The most obvious is, of course, a sender and a receiver. That usually won’t do, though – in network traffic, a controller must prioritize, manage, and, where possible, reduce network traffic down to the necessary levels. To this end, traffic is measured and checked for redundancies. Not checking network traffic for errors could result in slow-downs or even complete loss of service. Some cybersecurity attacks rely on overwhelming networks with trash data to get them to collapse.
In another example of traffic – that of a PC requesting and transmitting data from RAM to an SSD, for example, there are also controllers in play – and depending on the parts exchanging data, sometimes interpreters. This can happen on an integrated circuit level, or in some cases, via a separate part, but not all elements of a computer can process data in the same format or put it out in the same way.
Thus, the sent data needs to be translated into a format the receiver can understand first. In network traffic, this is less of an issue, as the protocols used to transmit the data packets already ensure that both the sender and receiver speak the same ‘language’ so to speak… and that the data received is, in fact, useable.
Time, Intensity, and Volume
When measuring the traffic, there are three important stats – time, and intensity, which together define the volume. Depending on the context, the time can be any preferred unit, though seconds is the most common. Mapping the traffic volume over time can allow the analysis of traffic trends. These can help determine when to schedule maintenance hours to cause minimal disruption. They can also help to identify when to upgrade to keep up with the demands on the hardware.
The second element is intensity – this is how much actual traffic occurs. Intensity refers to the amount of data being transferred. However, the amount of data being transmitted for a large picture or video file is much larger than that for a small text file. This will typically be measured in bytes or some multiple thereof.
In some cases, the number of individual traffic elements may be used instead or as well. For example, websites can track the hit rate of an article. A small website might see a few dozen to a hundred hits in 24 hours, while a site like Facebook would see millions in the same period. RAM is also advertised on its transfer rate.
The volume can be calculated with the two elements of time and intensity. The formula is simple – time x intensity = volume. While the volume can be calculated based on the number of different traffic events in the given time frame, this generally has limited use cases. The hit rate of an article can be helpful, for example. However, the total data transferred a month will determine networking bills, for example. In RAM, the mega transfer rate defines the peak available bandwidth. Usage, however, determines the actual volume of traffic transmitted.
Traffic is a term referring to data transfers of any form. It refers to the actual amount of transmitted data. This will always be equal to or lower than the peak possible bandwidth of the transmission media. Many digital transmission media also have some overhead that may or may not be counted as traffic. Traffic is typically measured in data units over time, such as Megabytes per second. It may also be measured as an individual or even grouped traffic elements per unit of time, such as website hits per day.