Cloud Networking Glossary
Learn the Fundamentals

What is a Ping?

Ping! It’s just so fun to say!

Every now and again when your internet connectivity fails you in some respect, I’m sure you have found the desire to reach into the superhero utility belt and bring out your ping command. I find myself doing this on my father’s laptop right after he says that famous four-word phrase, “The internet’s not working.”

So, naturally, I’m not going to troubleshoot connectivity from my machine. I’m having no problem watching the latest Re:Invent videos on Youtube, thank you very much. But each time I open up a command prompt and type in the ping command, he would always wonder what manner of sorcery I was conjuring up that would give me the glorious distinction of telling him that there was nothing wrong with the internet and there was everything wrong with his TCP/IP stacks. Using the ping command, I could verify whether connectivity was working or not between different resources and whether a remote host was online.

The ping command is a lightweight network connectivity program that encapsulates ICMP echo request/reply payloads into routable IP packets that will test the reachability of any host on the internet with an IP address. Not only will it test whether or not you can reach a remote host, but it will also provide feedback in the latency statistics as well in the context of packet loss and delays of the round trip.

A command prompt summoned from a Windows operating environment will execute a ping to a specified IP address with 32 bytes of data and provide a very succinct readout of any packet loss using only four echo requests. Using a Linux machine or the Darwin derived macOS terminal shell, the ping utility runs in more of a continuous fashion, issuing an echo request once every second until you stop the job with a control-Z. There will be no statistics from the CLI unless you specifically limit the count using the -c switch, but that is not even the best part about using ping. The best part can be found by typing in “ping www.google.com”, and when you get subsequent replies emanating from stdout, you know that DNS is working too.