A network protocol is an established set of rules that determine how data is transmitted between different devices in the same network. Essentially, it allows connected devices to communicate with each other, regardless of any differences in their internal processes, structure or design. Network protocols are the reason you can easily communicate with people all over the world, and thus play a critical role in modern digital communications.
Similar to the way that speaking the same language simplifies communication between two people, network protocols make it possible for devices to interact with each other because of predetermined rules built into devices’ software and hardware. Neither local area networks (LAN) nor wide area networks (WAN) could function the way they do today without the use of network protocols.
Network protocols take large-scale processes and break them down into small, specific tasks or functions. This occurs at every level of the network, and each function must cooperate at each level to complete the larger task at hand. The term protocol
suite refers to a set of smaller network protocols working in conjunction with each other.
Network protocols are typically created according to industry standard by various networking or information technology organizations.
The following groups have defined and published different network protocols:
While network protocol models generally work in similar ways, each protocol is unique and operates in the specific way detailed by the organization that created it.
Network protocols aren’t only relevant to certified network specialists or IT professionals. Billions of people use network protocols daily, whether they know
it or not.
Every time you use the internet, you leverage network protocols. Though you may not know how network protocols work or how frequently you encounter them, they are necessary for using the internet or digital communications in any capacity.
There are thousands of different network protocols, but they all perform one of three primary actions:
Each type is necessary to use network devices swiftly and safely, and they work together to facilitate that usage.
Communication protocols allow different network devices to communicate with each other. They are used in both analog and digital communications and can be used for important processes, ranging from transferring files between devices to accessing the internet.
Common types of communication protocols include the following:
Network management protocols define and describe the various procedures needed to effectively operate a computer network. These protocols affect various devices on a single network — including computers, routers and servers — to ensure each
one, and the network as a whole, perform optimally.
The functions of network management protocols include the following:
Security protocols, also called cryptographic protocols, work to ensure that the network and the data sent over it are protected from unauthorized users.
Common functions of security network protocols include the following:
Whether you know it or not, you’ve absolutely encountered network protocols when using electronic devices – and some of them are readily identifiable.
Here are a few examples of the most commonly used network protocols:
Network protocols do not simply define how devices and processes work; they define how devices and processes work together. Without these predetermined conventions and rules, the internet would lack the necessary infrastructure it needs to be functional and useable. Network protocols are the foundation of modern communications, without which the digital world could not stand.
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