Categorizing Networks by Protocol


Introduction.  Networks are often categorized by protocol they use for communications.  The three main types are listed below.
  • TCP/IP - Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
  • NetBEUI - NetBIOS Extended User Interface
  • IPX/SPX - Internet Package Exchange/Sequenced Packet Exchange

There are also a variety of other less common protocols such as AppleTalk.

We now give a quick summary of several of these protocols.

TCP/IP.  Despite the fact that it is the slowest and the most difficult to configure of the LAN protocols, it is the most widely used.  The following list outlines several reasons why this is so.

  • It uses a flexible addressing system that is extremely amenable to use by routers even over the largest networks.
  • Almost all operating system platforms can use TCP/IP
  • There are a huge number of utilities and tools available.  Some of these are already included in the protocol suite.  Some are add on programs for monitoring and managing.
  • It is the protocol of the global Internet.  A system must be running TCP/IP at some point in the network in order to connect to the Internet.

Most enterprise networks are running TCP/IP.  This can also greatly assist in developing Intranets and Extranets in addition to the advantages for connecting to the Internet.

NetBEUI Networks.  A small LAN using Microsoft operating systems can run using the NetBEUI protocol.  It is based on the NetBIOS - Network Basic Input/Output System developed by IBM for workgroups.  This protocol cannot be used by routers so if you want two different NetBEUI LANs to communicate you need to use some other protocol.

NetBEUI's advantages are its speed, simplicity of configuration and low resource overhead.

IPX/SPX Networks.  This is the protocol stack used by Novell networking products.  This protocol can also be run by other operating systems such as Microsoft products.  This protocol requires a much smaller configuration effort than TCP/IP.  It is sometimes used on internal Microsoft networks that are connected to the Internet for security purposes.

AppleTalk Networks.  AppleTalk is a set of protocols developed by Apple for networking Macintosh computers.  It makes use of LocalTalk, EtherTalk and TokenTalk depending on the size and whether the network is ethernet or token ring.

Other Network Protocols.  At some point in the future we will talk more about the OSI - Open System Interconnection model that underlies almost all networks.