Describe how flow control functions to ensure that too much data does not arrive before a device can handle it?


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Flow control is the process in data communications that manages the pacing of transmission between two nodes to ensure that a transmitting entity does not overwhelm a receiving entity with data. It acts to prevent a fast sender from outrunning a slow receiver.
According to Webopedia, flow control is the process whereby the process of data flow from one device to another is adjusted in order to ensure that the receiving device is able to handle the data that is incoming.
The 'xon-xoff' is the most common protocol for flow control. The receiving device will send an 'xoff' signal to the sending device as soon as the buffer becomes full. The sending of the 'xoff' signal prevents the sending device from sending more data.

Flow control is an important process because it is possible for sending computers to transmit information at a faster rate than the receiving computer can receive and process it. This is likely to happen when the receiving computer has a heavy traffic load in comparison to the sending computer, or if the receiving computer lacks the same processing power that the sending computer has.

There are three types of flow control:

• Network congestion - a prevention mechanism that provides control over the quantity of data that enters a device
• Windowing Flow Control - a mechanism that is used with a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
• Data buffer - a prevention control mechanism that provides storage to contain data to compensate for the variation in data transmission speeds

Flow control can be implemented in hardware or software, or a combination of both of them. Flow control should not be confused with congestion control, which relates to controlling the flow of data when congestion has occurred, as opposed to when sending and receiving speeds vary.

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