Network Protocols for Your Business

Image of a computer screen with many open windows being viewed through a pair of glasses sitting on the desktop.
You can choose from many network protocols, but which will it be? (source: UnSplash)

Many people don’t really think about how the internet works. Many people also don’t know how information gets passed between servers and computers. In short, network protocols cover this entire process. They govern the information transmission over your network. Therefore, the process is a bit more complicated than just sending data over a cable. Networking teams also need to know which protocol to use for their business and they’ll look for the most optimal mode of data transmission to match the best business purpose. 

In this article, you’ll learn what a network protocol is. I’ll also touch a bit on the different kinds of protocols and what you can use them for. Finally, we’ll dive into the best protocols to use in your business. So let’s begin with what a network protocol is. 

What Is a Network Protocol?

A network protocol is a way that servers and computers can communicate with each other. Essentially, network protocols dictate how devices pass data back and forth.  Internet protocols are rules and parameters for transferring data over the internet. This data can include videos, images, text, and other multimedia.  Generally, a protocol can get this information from a server to your computer. 

Data is broken down into small packets that contain metadata. Then, this metadata helps the data travel to the correct device. However, that’s not the only thing that network protocols help you achieve. Let’s take a more detailed look at different types of protocols. 

Types of Network Protocols

Network protocols come in different types. To start, communication protocols, like HTTP, will help you send data across your network. Yet, you also want to manage how the data gets sent. Additionally, you want to ensure your device configuration is optimal. Finally, you need to protect this data and your network.

To do all this, you need different categories of network protocols. I’ll show you the three main categories below. 

1. Communication Protocols

The following protocols help you send data over a network. They’ll also open up communication channels between devices. Communication protocols will help transfer information between devices on your network. 

HTTP/HTTPS

HTTP is the standard for internet browsing. It’s essentially the cornerstone and foundation of internet communication protocols. HTTP is an application layer protocol that allows a server and browser to communicate. 

TCP/IP

Transmission Control Protocol takes data and breaks it down into packets. Then, these packets can be transmitted over a network. In packet form, this data can be sent to devices such as switches and routers. After that, the information gets relayed to the destination. TCP/IP operates on layer 3, known as the network layer

IRC

Internet Relay Chat is a text-based communication protocol. It allows software clients to talk to servers, and then talk to other software clients. This protocol is very good for large networks with a big number of distributed devices, servers, and computers. IRC operates on the application layer.

HTTP and TCP/IP are the most commonly used communication protocols. Nine times out of ten, you’ll use them to set up a network for your business. However, these communication protocols won’t be enough. You’ll also want to include the second category of network protocols. Let’s take a closer look at the protocols that’ll help you manage your network.

2. Network Management Protocols 

Image of cabling plugged into server ports.
Identify problems with your connections!

Network Management Protocols help network administrators manage networks. These network protocols allow admins to check connection status, packet loss, host connection status, etc. Additionally, you could establish network policies to deliver a consistent experience across the entire network for all connected devices. If you can’t monitor your network, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You need to know when issues arise on your network. Otherwise, you can’t remedy them. These network protocols below help you identify problems

SNMP

Simple Network Management Protocol monitors and manages devices connected to the network. This is a TCP-based protocol that allows network admins to see and edit endpoint information. In turn, admins can change device behavior on the entire network. SNMP runs at the application level. 

ICMP

Internet Control Message Protocol is used for maintaining networks and performing diagnostics. Devices on the network can use this protocol to send error messages back to admins. This alerts you of any connectivity issues between devices. ICMP runs on the network level. 

These two protocols are very helpful to manage your network. Basically, they’ll allow you to see things that might go undetected. They’re very similar to one another, but ICMP is a great diagnostic tool. You could also use it in conjunction with SNMP.

Finally, let’s move on to the final type of network protocols. These ensure that the network and the data therein are secure. 

3. Network Security Protocols 

photo of two women on the street being scrutinized by hundreds of security cameras.
Network security is very important. Ensure you know who’s accessing your network and what kind of data they’re sending! (Source: UnSplash)

Network Security Protocols protect the data in transit on your network. Depending on the state your data is in, you’ll need to use different kinds of security. For data at rest, you’ll need encryption, authorization, controlled access, etc. However, data in transit needs network security measures, such as encryption, hashing, or tokenization. The protocols below secure the data in transit over your network.

SSL

Secure Socket Layer is a security protocol that protects the data in transit on the network. This protocol is also used for server/client communication and server/server communication. SSL encrypts the data and makes it unreadable to external parties. SSL also operates on the application level in the OSI model.

SFTP

Secure File Transfer Protocol basically encrypts data. It also ensures the client and server are authenticated. This means it checks that they’re both safe to connect with one another). In turn, this provides an extra level of security. SFTP operates on the transport level. 

HTTPS

Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol is a secure version of HTTP. It’s also encrypted to ensure protection between client and server. HTTPS operates on the application level. 

The network protocols above protect the data transfers on your network. They ensure third parties don’t have access to your data, whether it’s in motion or in storage. So which of these protocols is best for your business?

Which Protocols Are Right for My Business?

To build a strong, secure network for your business, you want to ensure you have at least one protocol from each category: communication, management, and security

Most times, the type of protocol you use can depend on the size of your business, how many employees, how many devices, servers, etc. Generally, small to midsize businesses will use TCP/IP protocols. If you’re working in a larger enterprise, FTP combined with HTTP will give your business a boost in speed. Additionally, HTTPS is very reliable for data transfer on your network. 

When selecting network protocols for your business, your best bet is to use secure protocols. For example, choose HTTPS over HTTP. In fact, HTTPS ensures the server and client “know” each other. Once it establishes this relationship, the protocol encrypts the data. Clearly, secure protocols give you that much more security

The Bottom Line 

To sum up, protocols govern how devices on your network communicate. You can choose between many network protocols from different categories. You’ll certainly need one or more of these protocols, depending on your business size. Remember that you should also have protocols from each category

By using these network protocols, you ensure that your network runs as securely and efficiently as possible. Otherwise, you’ll suffer from hacks and poor performance. In turn, this will cost you lots of money in the long run. 

Looking for more information on network protocols? Look no further than our FAQ and Resources sections below. 

FAQ

What is a network protocol?

A network protocol is an established set of rules. These rules determine how data is transmitted between devices, servers, and computers within the same network. It allows connected devices to communicate and transfer data. Without it, your devices wouldn’t be able to communicate with one another. 

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP. Basically, HTTPS has secure encryption. That means third parties can’t intercept and read the data transferred between devices. This also protects the sender and receiver’s data integrity. 

What is FTP?

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is used within TCP/IP. FTP is an application layer protocol. This protocol is used between a remote host, usually a server, and a user’s computer, known as the local host. The remote host is also known as an FTP server. FTP is a very basic protocol that helps transfer files to and from a remote host. 

Is Ethernet a protocol?

Yes, it is! Ethernet is one of the most commonly used protocols for communications between systems. It also runs on the first two levels of the OSI model: the physical and data link levels, respectively. The physical level deals with physical connections such as cables. The data level, well, transfers the data!

What is the difference between FTPS and SFTP?

Both FTPS and SFTP provide secure, encrypted file transfers. That said, they’re two different technologies. FTPS is basically FTP secured with SSL/TLS. Conversely, SFTP is the file transfer protocol of SSH. Although they do the same thing, SFTP uses SSL/TLS to ensure a secure connection with the server. After that, it transmits data. 

Resources

TechGenix: Article on Cloud Network Security

Learn about securing your cloud network with the latest security technologies. 

TechGenix: Article on Network Security for Your Business

Learn how network security and network protocols work hand in hand to secure your network. 

TechGenix: Article on Network Observability

Learn how network monitoring and observability support the best network monitoring practices. 

TechGenix: AArticle on UDP Protocols as Attack Vectors

Learn how DDoS attacks can use UDP traffic to overload your network. 

TechGenix: Article on Network Security Keys

Find out how you can get your network security key

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