What is a Network Protocol?


This is one of the first questions of a Network Engineer: What is a Network Protocol? A Network Protocol is a set of rules, standards, precedures that provide the communication of devices in a network. With all these features, Network Protocols shows how to beahve data between these devices. These standards define anything about this communicationlike physical topologies, cabling, access method etc.


Network Protocol is a very general definition. Above, we have also answered the question What is a Network Protocol? But what are the types of these protocols? There are many different areas, communication types, concepts etc. These types are also define in Wikipedia.


There are different network protocols that work in different layers of OSI Model and TCPIP Model. If we devide these protocols into categories, we can determine the below protocol categories.

  • Switching Protocols (Layer 2 Protocols)
  • Routing Protocols (Layer 3 Protocols)
  • Transport Layer Protocols
  • Application Layer Protocols

There are also other protocols sets, for example:


Beside these protocols, there are also other protocols that works independently. For example;

can be a good examples for this. So, let’s see the types of these Network Protocols.


Layer 2 Network Protocols


Swithcing is the Layer 2 (Datalink Layer) of OSI Model. It is also Data Link Layer for TCPIP Model.There are various network protocols in this layer. Spanning Tree Protocols like STP, RSTP, PVST+ are some of these protocols. PPP, HDLC, ATM, Frame-Relay are also Layer 2 network protocols that are also called WAN Protocols.


Layer 3 Network Protocols


In Layer 3 of OSI Model or TCPIP Model, two types of protocols exists. These are Routed Protocols and Routing Protocols. What are these Routed Protocols? These Routed Protocols are wellknown IP and old IPX protocols. IPv4 and IPv6 are the sub types of these Routed Protocol IP. And there are also Routing Protocols that are RIP, EIGRP, OSPF, IS-IS and BGP. These protocols are Routing Protocols but we can also divide these protocols into different types according to their working styles. These types can be:

  • Interior Gateway Protocols
  • Exterior Gateway Protocols


Or, we can divide them as :

  • Distance Vector Protocols
  • Link-State Protocols
  • Hybrid Protocols
  • Path Vector Protocols


Each Routing Protocol has both IPv4 version and IPv6 version. For example, OSPFv2 is the IPv4 version of OSPF an OSPFv3 is for the IPv6. Again, RIPv2 is used for IPv4 and RIPng is used for IPv6.


Transport Layer Protocols


Transport Layer Protocols are wellknow protocols like TCP, UDP and SCTP. These protocols are responsible from the sessions of a communication generally. They has different characteristics and they are used for different purposes. But one of the most important similar characteristic of these protocols are, they are all the answers of What is a Network Protocol? question.

Here, we do not explain all the details of these network protocols. If you would like to learn all these details, you can check the related protocol lessons.



Application Layer Protocols


Application layer is the layer that has too much network protocols. These are various protocols that work in this layer. For example we can devide these layer like below:

  • Web Protocols
  • Network Management
  • File Transfer Protocols


HTTP, HTTPS, TLS and SSL are nice examples of Web Protocols. This is one of the sub categories of network protocols.


Network Management Protocols are used to manage network equipments in different types. These protocols can be Telnet and SSH that provide access and manage the devices manually, or it can be SNMP that is used by a network managemetn system. All these protocols are network protocols.


File Transfer Protocols are also netowkr protocols. According to File Transfer What is a Network Protocol? These protocols are FTP, TFTP, SFTP etc.


Wireless Security Protocols


There are also Wireless Security Protocols like WEP, WPA, WPA2,WPA3 etc. These protocols are used for security purpose on wireless devices.

Like all protocols some of these Network Protocols are old and some of them are new. Sometimes the old ones do not give the required performance both for security, speed or capacity or anything. So, it is replaced with the new one. But, the old ones can be sued at the same time with the new ones.




In this article, we have tried to answer What is a Network Protocol? question. As we have seen above there are many answers of What is a Network Protocol? question that is asked by network enigneers. In otehr words, there are different answers for differetn categories. Mainly, it is the set of rules and precedures used in a network for the communication.


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