How the Internet Works

A Guide to Connectivity

In today's digital age, the Internet has become an integral part of our personal and business lives. We rely on it for various tasks and accessing data. However, have you ever stopped to wonder how the vast amount of information we send and receive actually moves across the Internet? In this article, we'll explore the inner workings of the Internet, shedding light on the processes that occur behind the scenes and uncovering some lesser-known facts.

The Journey of Ones and Zeros
When we interact with the Internet, we often overlook the fact that our applications and data are comprised of millions of ones and zeros residing in datacenters located somewhere in the world. If a business wants to access these applications or data "in the cloud," it needs to transfer a copy of those ones and zeros from the datacenter to their physical devices. These data packages, consisting of the ones and zeros, then traverse the Internet from one location to another. Despite the potential inclusion of sensitive information, most of us remain unaware of how these data packages actually move over the Internet.

Networks
The Internet is composed of a vast collection of networks. These networks house the applications and data we interact with. For example, services like Microsoft Teams and Office365 reside on servers owned by Microsoft, forming a massive network infrastructure. In total, there are over 70,000 networks worldwide, belonging to a wide range of organizations, including government entities, financial institutions, content networks like Spotify and Netflix, and telecommunications providers like KPN.

The Role of Internet Exchanges
To facilitate communication between different networks, especially when someone using one network wants to connect with someone on another network, a crucial component comes into play: Internet Exchanges (IXs). An Internet Exchange acts as a meeting point where various networks interconnect. By establishing Peering relationships, networks connected to an IX can freely exchange data with one another. This Peering relationship allows devices across networks to communicate and share information seamlessly.

NL-ix networks
NL-ix interconnects networks

Routing Traffic across the Internet
When a network router receives a request, it consults its routing table to determine the shortest path to the requested information. Based on the available information, the router forwards the request to the next router in its path. Each router makes its routing decisions based on its own knowledge and information. If there is a direct Peering relationship with the destination network, it will be utilised. However, if such a direct link is absent, the data is sent through intermediary routers and networks until it reaches its final destination. It's important to note that each router along the way introduces processing time, leading to increased latency and uncertainty about the path the data will take. This process is commonly referred to as IP Transit.

Regardless of how your business is connected to the Internet, you will inevitably rely on IP Transit to some extent. However, to achieve a more predictable and direct path, it is advantageous to leverage direct peering relationships whenever possible, minimizing the number of hops and reducing latency.

How NL-ix enhances connectivity
Now that we have a better understanding of how the Internet operates, let's explore how NL-ix can help enhance your organization's connectivity. NL-ix, as an Internet Exchange, maintains direct Peering connections with major Cloud Service Providers like AWS and Azure, content networks such as Akamai and Google, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) networks like Microsoft and Salesforce. Moreover, NL-ix enables direct reachability to internet service providers like KPN, Vodafone/Ziggo, and T-Mobile, ensuring seamless connectivity for your employees and customers. By connecting your organization to NL-ix, up to 95% of your internet data can be delivered to its destination network within a maximum of one hop.

NL-ix believes in providing high-quality internet services for everyone; from hard-core internet savvy's to organizations that understand the importance of interconnection but may not yet know how to achieve it.

Read more about our fully managed connection services NL-ix Transit and Elastic Interconnect

Bonus: Monitor your Traffic with the NL-ix Portal
In addition to the connectivity benefits, NL-ix offers an insightful portal called ICON. This portal allows you to monitor your traffic and trace its path within the NL-ix network. With ICON, you gain valuable insights into your data flow, enabling you to optimize your network performance and make informed decisions.

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ICON