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What Does Metric Mean?

A metric is a variable among the critical attributes of the route of a packet within a computer network. It has an unsigned value, so it can never be negative. Metrics are calculated for multiple routes to determine the best route. The route having the best metrics is usually the easiest and fastest path for delivering the packet.


The method used to calculate a metric differs from one network protocol to another. For example, Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP) has a metric ranging between zero and 4,294,967,295.

This term is also known as a routing metric.

Techopedia Explains Metric

Routing tables in routers contain only routes with the lowest metrics. There is another important network attribute called link-state, which is used together with the metric to make the final decision regarding the best path.

To calculate the route metric, many different network parameters are used, including:

  • Utilization per link.
  • Actual path speed/bandwidth.
  • Packet losses per link/path.
  • Overall delay of a packet.
  • Reliability of the path, calculated according to the history of outages.
  • Router throughput.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.