4.4. Understanding Internet Protocols
When many people think of protocols and computers, network and transport protocols come to mind. These two types of protocols seem to get all the credit. Network and transport protocols are the network communications components that connect your computer to a network, sending and receiving bundles of data between hosts. They include such protocols as TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, and NetBEUI.
Generically, a protocol is a set of standards or conventions that are followed when formatting data to be used for electronic communications, and data transfer is just one level in the electronic communications model. This definition of protocol is not limited to data transfer, and a number of protocols work at other layers: most notably, the application layer. Application layer protocols establish a standard or format for data that is to be communicated. These protocols are so-named because they are the first layer to which programs or applications on a computer (as well as the server components) communicate.
TCP/IP is not a protocol in and of itself; rather, it is a suite of industry-standard protocols. It is a routable wide area network (WAN) protocol that shares many similarities with Novell's IPX/SPX, both of which are covered in Book VIII, Chapter 3. One main difference, however, between IPX/SPX and TCP/IP is that TCP/IP is an open (free) protocol, and IPX/SPX is proprietary. TCP/IP standards are developed, established, and used by the computing ...