What is Internet Protocol (IP)?
You might have heard about IP or IP address and wonder what it really meant. Well, this blog post aims to break things down and explain what you need to know about Internet Protocol.
Internet Protocol (IP) is a set of rules that enables computers in a networked environment to communicate with each other. And by enabling computers to efficiently communicate, the Internet itself has become possible. Without it, we would not be living in the modern and ever-expanding world that we do. It is critical for our day-to-day existence now more than ever, as people rely on it for everything from communication purposes to business functions.
It is also a protocol for routing and addressing packets of data so that they may travel across networks and arrive at the proper destination. Data travelling the Internet is broken into smaller parts, called packets. IP information is connected to each packet, and this information assists routers to transmit packets to the proper spot. Every device or domain that connects to the Internet is issued an IP address, and when packets are routed to the IP address connected to them, data reaches where it is required.
Once the packets reach their destination, they are treated differently depending on which transport protocol is utilized in connection with IP. The most used transport protocols are TCP and UDP.
What is a network protocol?
In networking, a protocol is a defined method of executing particular operations and structuring data so that two or more devices are able to interact with and understand each other.
All IP data packets must convey specific information in a specified sequence, and all IP addresses follow a specified structure.
What is an IP address?
An IP address is a unique identification issued to a device or domain that connects to the Internet. Each IP address is a string of characters, such as ‘127.0. 0.0’.
With DNS resolvers, which transforms human-readable domain names into IP addresses, people are able to visit websites without remembering this complicated string of characters.
Each IP packet will include both the IP address of the device or domain delivering the packet and the IP address of the intended receiver, much as how both the destination address and the return address are contained in an email.
IPv4 vs. IPv6
The Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) was created in 1978 by David L. Mills and has remained largely unchanged since then. IPv4 is still in active use today. However, with more people becoming connected to the internet each year, increasing demand for communications has led to congestion of IP addresses on private networks across many parts of the world.
This is a problem that has been recognized by the networking and computer communities for many years, leading to the development of IPv6. IPv6 was created to address the limitations of IPv4 such as its small address space. The first standard version of IPv6 (RFC 2460) was published in 1998, and its second official release (RFC 4291) was published in 2005.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and supports up to 4,294,967,296 unique IP addresses with each address being 32 bits long.
What is an IP packet?
IP packets are formed by attaching each data packet with an IP header. An IP header is a sequence of bits (ones and zeros) that contains information about the packet, including the transmitting and receiving IP addresses. Additionally, IP headers indicate:
- Dimensions/length of the header
- Dimensions/Length of packet
- Time To Live (TTL) of a packet, which is the maximum number of network hops a packet may make before being discarded.
- Transport protocol utilized? (TCP, UDP, etc.)
- IPv4 headers include a total of 14 fields, one of which is optional.
What is TCP/IP?
The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a transport protocol, which means that it establishes the manner in which data is sent and received. Each packet that utilizes TCP/IP includes a TCP header in the data section. TCP establishes a connection with the receiver prior to transferring data. Once transmission starts, TCP guarantees that all packets arrive in sequence. The receiver acknowledges receipt of each packet that comes over TCP. If receipt of missing packets is not recognized, they will be resent.
TCP is intended to be reliable, not fast. Due to TCP’s requirement that all packets arrive in sequence, data loading over TCP/IP may take longer if any packets are missing.
TCP and IP were initially intended to be used in conjunction and thus are often referred to together as the TCP/IP suite. However, IP may be used with various transport protocols.
What is UDP/IP?
Another frequently used transport protocol is the User Datagram Protocol or UDP. It is quicker than TCP but has a lower level of reliability. UDP does not ensure that all packets are delivered in sequence, and it does not establish a connection before transmitting or receiving data.
How does IP routing work?
The Internet is composed of several linked big networks, each of which is responsible for a specific block of IP addresses; these big networks are collectively referred to as autonomous systems (AS). Numerous routing protocols, including BGP, aid in the routing of packets across ASes in accordance with their destination IP addresses. Routing tables are used by routers to determine which ASes packets should traverse in order to reach their destination as soon as feasible. Packets are routed across ASs until they reach one that claims authority for the specified IP address. That AS then routes the packets internally to the destination.