1. Technology

Video:What is a Network Protocol?

with Christopher Berrien

In this About.com video, learn what a network protocol is, and its various forms, so you can have a better understanding of how computers communicate with one another.See Transcript

Transcript:What is a Network Protocol?

Hi, this is Christopher Berrien for About.com, and today we're going to discuss what is a network protocol.

What is a Network Protocol?

Networks are how computers communicate with each other. A protocol is a particular standard, or language, that the computers use to understand each other. Think of the network as a road, and the protocol as the rules set down for using that road.

Various Network Protocols

There are many different network protocols. Some dictate how computers communicate over a local network - that is, computers in a local area that directly communicate over a network router. Other protocols govern how computers communicate over a remote network - generally speaking, via the internet. One of the most notable protocols is Internet Protocol, or IP. It is the main network protocol governing the internet.

The most commonly used version is Internet Protocol version 4, or IPv4, though systems are slowly transitioning to version 6. Computers are identified within Internet Protocol using an unique numerical identifier called an IP address. These are often set up by specialists known as network administrators.

TCP and Network Protocols

While Internet Protocol is a single network protocol, it is also part of a larger family called Internet Protocols. TCP, or Transmission Control Protocol, is used hand-in-hand with the IP protocol to create a standard known as TCP/IP.IP sends various pieces of information over a network. These pieces of data are known as packets. TCP combines those packets of IP data into an efficient and accurate request to another computer. It helps ensure that packets are not lost when transmitted over the network.

Thus, TCP/IP is the combined standard that computers use to communicate over the Internet.There are other forms of protocols that work within the IP family. HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, allows a web browser to communicate with a web server. You may have seen HTTP included in many world wide web addresses.FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is another common protocol, designed for efficient file transfer over the internet. Both HTTP and FTP deliver information in concert with the TCP/IP protocol.

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