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To run effectively and remain fast and reliable, the Internet needs rules.

Not the type of rules that govern what we share on Instagram or the opinions we express on Twitter. We’re talking about the rules that take effect behind the scenes — governing how information is sent and received.

Rules standardize the transmission of data, manage every Internet network and ensure that data stays secure. All so that we can feel confident that the Internet we rely on will continue working the way it should, with our data transferred quickly and securely.

These rules are called network protocols.

What Are Network Protocols?

Defined by groups such as The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), among others, network protocols are the rules by which connected devices share data across the same network. They provide the criteria by which devices transfer, route and receive data.

To do that, network protocols ensure that different devices are speaking the same language and break down complex data sets so that data can be sent and received. Neither the Internet nor digital communication as a whole would function the way they do without protocols.

How Do Network Protocols Work?

You may not know it, but every time you use the Internet, network protocols go into action. As they do, large-scale processes get broken down into smaller tasks and functions — each working together in what’s called a “protocol suite” to accomplish whatever that larger task may be.

Set up as services on your devices, these protocol suites provide governance around actions like communication, network management and security. Each protocol has its own rules around the organization and transfer of data, allowing the Internet to continue to function the way it should and for network devices to work quickly and securely.

Examples of Network Protocols

Chances are you recognize some of the more common network protocols. Just think of HTTP and HTTPS, for example — you’re probably already familiar with both. HTTP is an example of a network protocol focused on communication, while HTTPS builds in security protocols.

Here’s a list of some of the most well-known network protocols:

  • HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is critical to the Internet as we know it, giving your browser and server the power to communicate with each other.
  • HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) extends the HTTP protocol to allow for secure communication over a computer network.
  • SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) allows for secure file access, file transfers and file management over data streams.
  • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is an encryption-based protocol used to help ensure data privacy.
  • TCP/IP (Transport Control Protocol and Internet Protocol) is a suite of protocols that together define how information is sent and received.
  • ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) is used by devices like routers to diagnose network communication issues and send error messages.

The network protocols you rely on most as a business, then, will depend on your communication, security, file transferring and network management needs.


There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to keep the Internet running efficiently — and rules like network protocols are part of that. They’re an integral part of the digital communications that keep your business running smoothly.

And now the next time you see a reference to HTTP or HTTPS, you’ll know exactly what it means.

Learn more about the connectivity solutions Xplore Business offers businesses Canada-wide.