A packet is a formatted unit of data used to transmit information piece by piece across a packet switched network. Packets usually contain three sections: a header, the payload, and a trailer (also called “footer”).
A packet header contains information such as the length of the packet (if the network does not use a predetermined fixed packet size), synchronization bits to help the packet match up with the network, a packet number to differentiate each packet from the others, the protocol (i.e. type of information contained within the packet), and the source and destination IP addresses.
The “payload” of a packet contains the actual information being transmitted.
The trailer or “footer” usually contains a series of bits signaling to the receiving device that it has reached the end of the packet, as well as some type of error-checking information to ensure that the packet was not modified in transit.