Beginner’s Guide to Bufferbloat: How to fix lag on your network
Do you ever feel like something in your home is slowing down your home network? Whether you’re waiting for Netflix to stop buffering, waiting for your Facetime call to unfreeze, or waiting for your online game to stop lagging, we all spend too much time struggling with our connection.
This problem happens when other devices eat up your bandwidth. The technical term for this is ‘Bufferbloat’ and this beginner’s guide will explain how it happens and what you can do to fix it.
What is Bufferbloat?
Bufferbloat is lag that occurs when there’s too much traffic on your network. Even something as simple as a Google search can create Bufferbloat, which then cause lag spikes in your game and bring your connection to a halt.
The best way to imagine Bufferbloat is to picture a highway with vehicles travelling at a constant pace. The vehicles represent your data, while the highway is your connection.
Congestion on your network is like gridlock on the road; vehicles have no choice but to wait. Sometimes vehicles will crash into the back of the queue and be lost. This is called ‘packet loss’.
If the highway is heavily congested, packet loss happens a lot. So when networks were first designed, ‘buffers’ were put in place to prevent packet loss. Buffers are like a temporary parking lots that control the rate at which data enters and leaves, turning a chaotic traffic jam into an organised process.
When the traffic is light, these buffers will remain empty and traffic will simply pass through them.
Problems start happening when the traffic gets heavier and the parking lot begins to fill up. So if more vehicles are entering than can exit, Bufferbloat begins to build, which you see on your connection as ping spikes and buffering.
When this blockage is happening, the network buffers get wider and wider (more ‘bloated’) as more packets have to wait for the bottleneck to clear. This is how Bufferbloat gets its name.
TIP: Want to test how good your connection handles Bufferbloat? Try the free speed test tool at DSL Reports for a rating of your connection.
How can I fix Bufferbloat?
Your router controls the flow of traffic, which means the only way to fix Bufferbloat is through your router. For many years, routers have attempted to solve Bufferbloat using something called ‘Quality of Service’, or ‘QoS’ for short.
Standard QoS tried to solve Bufferbloat by prioritising certain traffic over others.
The big problem with this is that Bufferbloat still exists, and whoever is using the yellow data or blue data really suffers. This would mean if your home was streaming Netflix, downloading a large file and also gaming, at least one of you will experience buffering or lag.
So if you just have a standard router, the only way to prevent Bufferbloat is to cut it at the source, such as not downloading large files or reducing the quality of the videos. This solution, as you know, is far from and usually causes arguments in your home over who can use the Internet.
The only way to properly fix Bufferbloat is if your router can prevent the greedy devices from demanding too much bandwidth. In other words, if you can stop every device on your network from asking for more data than your bandwidth pipe can take, then you won’t suffer from Bufferbloat. And you won’t be slowing your connection down either, because your bandwidth will still be fully used.
In the illustration above, the traffic (the incoming data) does not exceed the width of the highway (the bandwidth). So latency sensitive applications like games or VOIP are not caught in the buffer, eliminating the queuing problem.
Our Anti-Bufferbloat (http://rapps.dumaos.com/#qos) solution is designed to do exactly this – it is built from the ground up to prevent Bufferbloat from causing congestion on your network.
It’s super easy to apply, you just set how much you want bandwidth you want to limit greedy devices to (e.g. 90% of your bandwidth) and you then get the best results for gaming, streaming and downloading seamlessly.
Anti-Bufferbloat can also detect when you’re playing a game and limit devices only at that time.
This solution is available exclusively on DumaOS. You can find out more about DumaOS here: http://rapps.dumaos.com
That’s the end of our Bufferbloat guide. We hope this has given you insight into the main cause of home connection issues and how to fix it.