The Basic Types of Network Protocols. Explained

Protocols are the backbone of any network, governing all the processes to ensure managed and
secure communication between components of the network. In this post, we try to understand what network protocols exactly are and the primary types of protocols.

What are Network Protocols?

Network Protocols can be defined as formal standards and policies that consist of procedures, rules, and formats that define communication between devices connected to a network. Network
Protocols are meant to incorporate the processes, constraints, and requirements to initiate and
incorporate the communication between servers, computers, routers and other devices.

In simple words, a network protocol is a set of rules that define the method of exchanging data over a network. Examples of network protocols include Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), UDP (User Datagram Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and IP (Internet Protocol).

All the devices participating in a network communication must be aware of the common network
protocol and communicate as defined by the protocol. It means standard network protocol software must be installed on the two devices communicating with each other over a network.

Basic Types of Network Protocols

A large number of computer network protocols have been developed, each serving a specific
environment and purpose. However, the basic network protocols are as explained below.

Wireless Network Protocols

With the advent of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and LTE, wireless networks have become popular. Wireless
Network Protocols are developed to be used with wireless networks. They must support roaming
mobile devices and be capable of handling problems like network security and variable data rates.
Some of the popular wireless network protocols are Bluetooth, 802.11g protocol, 802.11b protocol, and 802.11a protocol.

Internet Protocols

IP (Internet Protocols) family consists of a set of network protocols used most commonly. Other
higher-level protocols such as HTTP, UDP, TCP, and FTP integrate with IP to offer extra capabilities. Similarly, lower-level protocols like ICMP and ARP also work with Internet Protocols. Higher-
level internet protocols co-exist closely with web browsers while lower-level protocols work with
computer hardware like network adapters.

Network Routing Protocols

These are special-purpose protocols specifically designed to work with network routers over the
internet. A routing protocol can identify routers in the network, manage pathways or routes between sources and destinations of messages sent over the network and take care of dynamic
routing decisions. Examples of common network routing protocols are OSPF, BGP, and EIGRP.

Network Security Protocols

Some protocols are developed to secure the information transmitted over the internet. Because of
the increasing number of hacking activities on the internet, a security protocol must be
employed on a network, server or website. HTTPS is a popular security protocol used for the
protection of internet traffic. It takes care of data security and integrity. No outsider can intercept
the data transmitted through the HTTPS.

Another security protocol is SSL that establishes a secure connection between servers and clients. In this protocol, encryption and decryption of the message are used to secure the data transmitted.

Network Protocols Implementation

Today’s operating systems come with software services that incorporate support for network
protocols. Web browsers and other applications also consist of software libraries that support
high-level protocols required for the functioning of the application. For a few lower-level network
routing and TCP/IP protocols, support is implemented into the hardware for optimum performance.

Modern network protocols employ packet switching techniques to send and receive messages over the network. They are transmitted in the form of packets where the entire message is divided into pieces that are collected back and put together at the destination. Each packet sent over the
network is made up of binary data. Protocols are designed to embed each packet with a small
header at the beginning containing the information about the sender and destination of the packet.

Apart from this, some protocols even add a footer towards the end. Each of these protocols is
capable enough to identify the packets of its type and process their headers and footers which are
parts of the moving data between devices. A group of network protocols operating in collaboration
with each other at higher and lower levels is known as a protocol family.

Emil S.

Emil is a Data & Design Specialist with a degree in BS Information System, specializes in Admin Support & Creative Design. He also manages his own Art Portfolio on Instagram: @escreativesph

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