Meg Thornley
Social Media and Project Manager

What is a Ping?

In order to understand what a ping is, you must first understand the concept of a connection in terms of a computer network.

Connection

Imagine you’re in a small soundproof maze, and where every corridor meets another, there are doors. All of these doors are shut. You want someone to hear you, and they are in a different part of the maze. The best way to achieve this would be to open all of the doors between you and them, and because sound gets quieter over a distance, you want this to be the shortest possible route. You can then talk or shout to each other.

 

This is the same as a computer connection. A computer connection over a network (such as the internet) will find the shortest possible route between two computers. Once a route has been found, there is a ‘connection’. Data can then be sent between the two computers.

ping1

Ping

Imagine in our maze example that you stop talking to the other person for a while. It goes silent, how do you know all of the doors between you and them are still open? How do you know they have not closed their door? The simplest solution would be to just ask (‘hey, are you there?’). This is known as a ‘ping’. They would then respond by shouting back (‘yes, I am’), this is known as the ‘pong’. If you do not get a response, you can ask again to double check if they heard you. If they still don’t answer, you can assume a door is shut.

Computers do the same thing when a connection is open to check that the host computer they’re trying to reach is working. They send a ‘ping’, or and Internet Control Message Protocol out periodically, and wait for a response. If they do not get one, they assume that the connection has been broken.