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In a packet-switched system, packet loss refers to the amount of data (number of packets) that fails to arrive at its intended destination. Network administrators consider this metric when looking at the efficacy and performance of data systems.
Some administrators look at packet loss while doing different types of network monitoring or testing, but it can also be apparent to end users when significant loss is experienced. Some types of packet loss can lead to system errors in programs that are designed for a particular threshold of cohesive information. In audio or video communications, packet loss can lead to jitter or interruptions, or loss of service.
IT professionals must diagnose and fix packet loss problems in order to provide uninterrupted service. The issue relates to the specific ways that individual data packets are sent through Internet or network systems to be received by specific pieces of hardware. Alternatives to a packet-switched network involve circuit-switched systems, where a specific circuit or connection is established for transmission, for example, in dedicated fiber-optic lines.