Network Protocols

What Does Network Protocols Mean?

Network protocols are formal standards and policies comprised of rules, procedures and formats that define communication between two or more devices over a network.


They ensure that computer network devices can transmit and receive data using a common language regardless of their different designs, hardware or infrastructures.

Network protocols govern the end-to-end processes of timely, secure and managed data or network communication.

They can be built into hardware or software, and they’re so important that, in practice, every network use rely on network protocols for communications and connectivity.

Techopedia Explains Network Protocols

Network protocols incorporate all the processes, requirements and constraints of initiating and accomplishing communication between computers, servers, routers and other network-enabled devices.

They must be confirmed and installed by the sender and receiver to ensure network/data communication and apply to software and hardware nodes that communicate on a network.

Network protocols are developed and published by several groups according to certain industry standards.

The most important ones include:

  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

A protocol suite is a set of different network protocols that cooperate to exchange information and enable internet connectivity across various layers.

For example: the TCP/IP suite comprehends the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Internet Protocol (IP), and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

Each one of them allow the transmission of data between devices at the information packet level (mainly TCP, and UDP as well to add an additional layer of stability), Internet address level (IP), and display level (HTTP and FTP).

Broad Types of Networking Protocols

Network communication protocols

Communication protocols allow basic data communication between network devices. Their purposes range from transferring files between computers or via the internet, to exchange text-based messages, and establishing communication between routers and external or IoT devices.

Examples of communication protocols are:

  • Bluetooth protocols
  • FTP
  • TCP/IP
  • And HTTP

Network security protocols

Security protocols implement security over network communications by guaranteeing that data transferred over a network cannot be accessed by unauthorized users.

Security is established through various means, such as via the use of passwords, authentication protocols, or data encryption.

Data can be cryptographed and protected during transportation between devices, and access can be denied to unknown or unauthorized devices or users.

Examples of security protocols include:

  • SSL
  • SSH
  • And SFTP

Network management protocols

Network management protocols provide network governance and maintenance by defining the procedures required to operate a network.

They are applied on all devices operating in a given network — such as servers, routers, and computers — to coordinate them in an efficient way.

Network management protocols ensure that each device is connected to the others and to the network itself, and guarantee the stability of these connections.

They are often used for troubleshooting purposes and to assess the quality of the network connection.

Examples of network management protocols include:

  • SNMP
  • and ICMP

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…