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Why does a lot of small files take longer to transfer than few large files?

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Applies to

File Based Transfer

Answer

  • When transferring files, typical applications will copy over a single file at a time
  • Each of the file creations requires several metadata operations to occur before the file has been written completely
  • Each of these operations could use an additional round trip time (RTT) to complete
  • With smaller files, the write portion can complete without ever reaching the bandwidth capacity of the link
    • In the graph below you can see that the bytes in flight stayed near capacity with a large file, and the transfer rate is very sporadic with small file transfer.

1big-vs-100small-files-ftp-01s-Bit.png

Additional Information

To help understand network performance, see TCP calculators