TCP vs. UDP: Understanding the Limitations

TCP is a connection-oriented protocol, which establishes a virtual circuit between the sender and receiver before transmitting any data. However, there is no guarantee that this circuit completion, as it may experience some form of congestion or failure.

UDP is a best-effort service, meaning that no guarantee will deliver your message at all. And if it does get through, then there’s no promise on when it’ll arrive. In addition, it means that UDP doesn’t have any built-in reliability features, which can be a downside if you need to be sure that your data is delivered. However, UDP can be faster and more efficient than TCP in some cases, so it’s worth considering if your needs align with its strengths.

TCP vs. UDP 

One of the main benefits of TCP is that it guarantees the delivery of messages. The feature makes it a better choice for applications that require reliable communication, such as file transfers or VoIP. However, because TCP establishes a virtual circuit between the sender and receiver, it usually incurs additional overhead on the network. For this reason, UDP is more efficient for some applications that require high-speed data transfer or don’t require all messages delivery.

For example, if you are streaming a movie from Netflix with TCP, there may be times where video playback is interrupted if some packets are lost or delayed. However, with Netflix’s implementation of UDP for some streaming protocols like ATV, playback will be uninterrupted. Because it can quickly request new data on the receiving end without acknowledgment packets.

What is a connection-oriented protocol, and what does it do?

Connection-oriented protocols ensure that the data arrives at its intended destination without error. The process happens by establishing a virtual circuit between the sending host and recipient, which other connections cannot disrupt. However, the connection can be pretty expensive to set up. So it is often used for large files or slow networks where there is time to establish this connection.

Connection-less protocols are less selective about their recipients. They use best-effort service, meaning there is no guarantee that they will deliver the message. And if it does get through, then there’s no promise on when it’ll arrive. These are not as expensive to establish as connection-oriented protocols, but they are still costly in terms of time and resources.

Best-effort services are also sometimes called unreliable because there is no guarantee that the data will be delivered correctly or even at all. There is still some expense associated with sending data this way, but not establishing a virtual circuit first.


The message sender may receive a delivery confirmation message. But there is no guarantee that the recipient received it. For example, there can be a problem if the message contains important information, such as an order confirmation or password reset.

Why would you want to use a best-effort service? 

Some people may want to use UDP because it is an unreliable protocol. There is no guarantee that the messages sent with the protocol will arrive at the destination. It does not require an established virtual circuit before it can send messages. It also does not go through acknowledgment, and it has no established windowing system for data transmission. In addition, we can use it as a mechanism for certain types of real-time messages that don’t have any importance.

How can you tell which type of service your data is using? 

The simplest way to determine whether your data is using TCP or UDP is to see the flags fields of the IP header. If there is “S” flag, then your data is using TCP, and if there is “U” flag, your data is using UDP. You can also use the “netstat -p TCP of” command on Linux (or similar commands on other operating systems) to see a list all active TCP sockets.

Pros and cons of each type of protocol 

The benefits of TCP are that it guarantees the delivery of messages and provides congestion control. That makes it a more reliable protocol for transferring data. However, the drawback of TCP is that it can prolong in comparison to UDP.

On the other hand, UDP is much faster than TCP but doesn’t guarantee the delivery of messages. It means a higher chance of data loss when using UDP. However, because UDP is a best-effort service, it does not experience the same congestion problems that TCP can.

TCP is generally more suited for applications where reliability is essential, such as file transfers or web browsing. UDP is better for applications that require speed and do not need to guarantee the delivery of messages. Such as online gaming or streaming music/video.

When deciding which protocol to use, it is crucial to consider the specific needs of your application. For example, if reliability is vital, then we should use TCP. On the other hand, if speed is more critical, UDP is the better option. Whichever you choose, understanding the limitations of each protocol will help you make the most of them both.

The use of TCP or UDP home network setup

TCP is the appropriate protocol for a home network setup when you need to send data reliably and quickly. However, the UDP is the best for communications where reliability is not an issue, such as online gaming.

In the world of networking, there is no such thing as a perfect connection. TCP vs. UDP are two different protocols for handling data transmission. Both have their limitations and benefits depending on your needs. For example, UDP may be best for you if you’re looking to send a message from point A to point B with minimal latency or guarantee. On the other hand, if reliability and speed are more important considerations in your network environment, TCP would likely work better. Contact us today to learn more about how these protocols differ and determine which one works best for your situation.

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