TCP/IP #1: Networking introduction

Networks are everywhere, especially in the form of Internet. The Internet has revolutionized our lives to an extent people could not imagine several years ago. And more is going to come. Despite we tend to take it for granted that devices we use are connected somewhat magically – obviously there are great minds behind networking concepts. However, no magic at all. Hence this is very interesting topic, in this series I will try to answer some questions about it.

What is networking?

For such an extensive subject, there actually is a simple answer for that:

A network is a set of hardware devices connected together, either physically or logically. This allows them to exchange information.

Networks are used for a huge array of purposes. Most people learning about it, think that there are interconnecting PCs. But people use a variety of devices that are connected to some networks on a daily basis that are not PCs or laptops. Smartphones, tablets, cars, air conditioning, smart home solutions, even vacuums – all of those devices have to be connected to some type of network to exchange information.

Pros and cons

At first glance, networks are very advantageous because they allow computers and other devices to connect, share information, thus help ordinary people with organizing their lives and share resources. Some of the specific benefits include: communication, data sharing Internet access, data security, management and entertainment.

Nonetheless, all that glitters is not gold. Even though networking provide many solutions to our lives, it carries some drawbacks. Setting up a network costs. Hardware, software, administration, maintenance – it is not going to be self-sustainable. At least for now. It is also essential that networks keep running smoothy and address any issues asap. Nowadays, as we retain confidential data on many servers, data security becomes one of the bigger concerns.

Network layers

One of many reasons people find difficult to learn about networking is that it can be overwhelming. Plethora of concepts, protocols, standards – these are parts of a bigger puzzle which consist on a global networking system. Dividing networks into layers help encapsulate data and let them do only particular things. Somewhat similar to manufacturing facility, where labor is divided to do things which are they specialised in.

The most common general model in use today is the Open System Interconnection (OSI) Reference Model, which consists of seven layers. Understanding this is essential to grasp the whole image of networking. In this series I will break down each layer into smaller pieces and describe it in simple words. But most of the topics will be around layers 3 & 4, which are Transmission Control Procotol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP).