Why different network standards and protocols are necessary

Protocols are the common language computers use to communicate with each other. Standards are guidelines that companies should follow when designing and manufacturing their equipment. The reason why different network standards and protocols are necessary is to ensure that networks and devices on networks such as mobiles, tablets, laptops, switches and routers can all communicate easily with each other…

Why standards are necessary

In networking, the reason standards exist is to make sure that the hardware and software that is made by different vendors can work together seamlessly. If there were no networking standards, it would be difficult to create networks that can share information reliably.

Standards also ensure that customers are not limited to using one vendor which means they can buy hardware and software from any vendor who is equipped to meet their standards. This keeps the marketplace healthy and can keep prices competitive.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) is a global group of over 300,000 engineers, scientists, researchers and students who provide standards in local area networking. Among other things it created the 802 standards which we see in all networks today. Subcommittees are assigned to deal with specific standards such as 802.8 (which concerns standards for local area networks using fiber) and 802.11 (wireless local area networks).

Imagine a world where 802 didn’t exist… it would mean that all of our phones and computers couldn’t connect to the same network unless they were all the same or made by the same manufacturer.

Why protocols are necessary

Protocols are a set of rules that are used for the exchange of information. They run in the background so users are unaware of them but every action you take (whether it’s clicking on a link or dialing a number on a phone) invokes some sort of protocol.

The communication between devices usually begins by the client computer sending a signal to a server about information on the type of data being requested. Some exchanges take place which eventually end when the server has closed the connection.

If there were no protocols or rules, computers wouldn’t be able to talk to each other as these protocols allow computers to communicate in an organized way without misinterpretation.

The following is a list of some of the networking standards and protocols:

  • TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol, these are two types of protocols that are often linked together. When protocols are linked together like this they are called a ‘stack’. TCP/IP itself is used to refer to a suite of protocols for different functions. It is used to perform the basic operations of the web and also used in many local area networks. TCP is used to break up information in to ‘packets’ that can facilitate fast transfer and ensure safety by minimising loss of information.  IP is the information that contains the IP address of the sender and receiver.
  • Bluetooth protocol – This is a wireless data exchange standard which uses a variety of protocols
  • ICMP – Internet Control Message Protocol is a definition for a small amount of messages that are used for diagnostic and management such as PING and Traceroute.
  • POP3 and SMTP – The most common protocol for Email is ‘simple mail transfer protocol’ (SMTP), which consists of an internet address when creating email clients. Post Office Protocol (POP), is the most common protocol used by PC’s when receiving email. TCP is used by both SMTP and POP3 for the management, transmission and delivery of mail.
  • Interactive Mail Access Protocol (IMAP) is a more powerful protocol used to read mail, it allows the reading of individual mailboxes in a single account and is used mostly in business.
  • HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) – When web pages are created using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), they are transmitted over the internet using HTTP which uses TCP/IP to manage web transmission. Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer (HTTPS) provides transmission in encrypted forms to ensure security of sensitive data.
  • FTP (file transfer protocol) – FTP is used to transfer files from one computer to another over a network, it provides file management on a remote computer. FTP is mostly used to upload data to the internet as downloading is mostly handled by HTTP. SFTP is another variation with the S standard for ‘Secure’ or to be more precise ‘Secure Shell’ (SSH).