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What Are Network Protocols and How Are They Used?

Network protocols are responsible for establishing and ensuring communication between different devices. Learn about the use and list of commonly used network protocols here.

Network protocols

Network protocols are a set of pre-defined rules and guidelines that computer-related devices follow to enable network communication. These standard rules framework in the Internet protocol suite include identifying and establishing connections among devices. Moreover, they also define how the transfer of data can occur to and from different devices in the same network.

Created according to the industry standards by networking and technology organizations such as IEEE, W3Consortium, ISO (International Standards Organization), and others, network protocols are essential for seamless communication between devices. Additionally, two or more devices based on different infrastructural devices or standards can also communicate through standard network protocols. These protocols include guidelines that monitor access methods, cabling type, data transfer speed etc.

This article explains the use of network protocols, how they work, and a few of their common types.

Use of Network Protocols  

Network protocols can be used for digital and analog communications. Furthermore, these standard communication protocols can check for authorization and detect errors in the communication channel. Network communication is carried out through wireless network protocols, wired network protocols, Internet protocols etc.

Network protocols are used for accessing the Internet, transferring files among devices, automating processes on the network, and sending messages across the internet network.

The Internet protocol suite ensures that the network operates seamlessly and maintains connections among devices. Apart from this, network protocols help network administrators to locate and fix errors. Specific security-based protocols are responsible for securing data transmission, authenticating users on a network, not allowing unauthorized users to bypass the network and spoof the data passed on the network.

Several types of protocols are in use today for enabling communication between devices across the network. Let’s understand a few types of network protocols in use today.

1. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a network communication protocol that allows applications and devices to communicate over a network. TCP integrates with Internet Protocol (IP) for data and communication transmission; therefore, the Internet protocol suite is also known as TCP/IP.

Additionally, it ensures that the data packets sent over the web are delivered from source to destination securely. TCP enables a smooth end-to-end delivery of messages and information. Further, it establishes a connection between source and destination and breaks the data into smaller chunks of packets while maintaining data integrity. Protocols such as FTP, SSH, and Telnet use TCP to transmit data.


  • Ensures data reaches the destination node
  • Timely delivery of data

2. File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is used for transmitting files between devices or applications across TCP/IP connections. To facilitate FTP exchange, the computer (local host) and the server (remote host) should be connected through a network and configured. A standard communication protocol built on a client-server framework, FTP enables file transfer between server and client.

FTP allows users to download and transfer files from one device to another with an established Internet connection. It also will enable systems to move files that are stored remotely on the cloud. FTP functions when a client requests a file supplied by a server. A data channel is established for clients to request files and download, copy, or edit the files. Additionally, FTP enables private file sharing.


  • Allows sharing large files
  • Enables recovery of lost data

3. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol or SMTP, as it is popularly known, is another example of a standard communication protocol that enables email transmission over the Internet.

Even though it can send and receive emails, it is primarily used to send text messages. Moreover, it can also work or integrate with POP3 (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) to retrieve emails on the destination end, while SMTP serves to send emails from the source.

Apart from this, its primary function is to establish and facilitate communication rules between servers for messaging.


  • Flexible with existing systems
  • Dedicated server for outgoing emails

4. Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a network layer protocol that enables data transfer from a web server to a web client. Besides, it is one of the most widely used protocols to set up communication between the browser and server. It lets users communicate data on the world wide web. Furthermore, it transmits hypertext between clients and servers to interact with web browsers and HTML files. HTTP uses task-oriented methods to request a specific source, add content messages, modify existing web resources, or delete a particular resource. Additionally, it establishes a single connection to share files and allows you to send files from one host to another.


  • Provides accessibility by storing content into the cache memory
  • Allows multiple connections to download the same file simultaneously

Implementing Network Protocols  

Network protocols are built on one another. However, they are merely a set of established rules and guidelines and not codes or software pieces.

The network protocols are implemented as services on a system. The system follows the defined set of standard rules while operating over a network and interacting with an application or system. The system hardware works by reading streams of bits and implements the protocols according to the flow of layers in the OSI model. Some network protocols are implemented on hardware (physical layer), while others are programmed in software as part of an operating system or application.

Internet or network protocols govern client-server communications and are the foundation for enabling digital communications. They also set up secure and high-performance network communication. While Internet infrastructure would be crippled without these pre-defined rules and standard frameworks, ensuring network security is also crucial. Massive volumes of data or information are shared over a network, which makes it prone to intrusion. Hence, to defend your network, you need to have a thorough understanding of the application layer protocols and how devices and processes work together. This is where credible programs like Certified Network Defender (C|ND) can help you further your knowledge and skills.

Become a Certified Network Defender 

As previously mentioned, Network protocols play a crucial role in network security. They enable the digital transmission of data over a secured network channel and govern the data transmitting activities on the Internet. Network security protocols also ensure that the data is safe from unauthorized malicious users by encrypting the network channel to access the data packets. Without network routing protocols, the way we engage with people across the globe would be challenging.

A network defender can implement and monitor these network protocols to ensure that data is safe from theft.

An accredited certification such as Certified Network Defender (C|ND), which is 100% focused on network security and defense, enables a network defender or cybersecurity professional to grasp the fundamentals of networking. Understanding networking concepts will help them set up and secure network protocols to ensure endpoint security, tackle network attacks, and maintain technical network security.

Recognized and Accredited by DoD 8570 & ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024

Get your Network Security Certification at EC-Council


  1. Who uses network protocols?

While an ordinary man may not limit knowledge of network protocols, still all of us participate in establishing network protocols when we use web resources or use the Internet for digital communications. They are not just limited for use by IT and security professionals alone.

  1. What are the primary functions of network protocols?

While there are numerous types of Internet protocols, all types of network protocols have three principal functions:

  • Network communications
  • Security
  • Network management


  1. https://www.comptia.org/content/guides/what-is-a-network-protocol
  2. https://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/definition/protocol