Understanding Internet Protocol

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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 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.

Software engineer, Technical writer. I enjoy the synergy of writing and technology