The Internet runs on this one thing you've never heard of.

The Internet runs on this one thing you've never heard of.
Photo by Lars Kienle / Unsplash

I'm sitting beside a pool at a gorgeous resort in Accra, Ghana. It's 29º muggy and warm. Why? Not for a holiday, that's for sure.

I'm here to talk about peering. It's this small, but super important function of the Internet that few folks even know exist. But everyone in the ISP industry travels around the world to discuss it, plan it and make it happen.

What is peering? Peering is when two ISP's connect directly to each other to share traffic.

It's kinda like having two buildings in a city, and there are multiple employees who need to move between these buildings. But to get from one building to the other, they need to go downstairs, into the road, walk or drive a few blocks to the next building and then go inside, do their thing and take the same route back.

Imagine if you want to make this more efficient, and you built a bridge to connect these two buildings to each other directly, so people could just go over the bridge and get to the other building. Would be a far more efficient system right?

That's essentially what peering boils down to. Two ISP's connect to each other and have a more efficient route to swap traffic. Cool hey?

Of course, you can peer with many ISPs and get their routes, and give them yours. There are these things called IXP's (Internet Exchange Points) where ISP's go to peer. They generally sit in large data centres scattered across the world.

But why's it important?

With shorter routes you get traffic from point A to point B quicker, and that matters when you're trying move any kind of data around. So if your ISP peers with Netflix, streaming is better, quality is better and there is no buffering. If your ISP is fetching Netflix via 3 others ISP's in a different city, it really could ruin your Netflix and chill.

If you're a business, and you're trying to access a cloud server, business email etc, your ISP peering with the cloud provider makes the response times a million times faster and ultimately improves business productivity.

Also, it's good for the community is ISP's to work together, share resources, routes, traffic and make the Internet a better place, which ultimately will help make the world a better place.

So now you know what peering is.