TCP/IP is a communications protocol that public networks like the Internet, as well as private intranets and extranets use. Any device that connects to the Internet, or which transmits and receives data uses TCP/IP protocol layers.
The first part, the Transmission Control Protocol has the job of chopping up all the data that’s sent into discrete units called packets. It is also responsible for sending and receiving them.
The Internet Protocol layer acts like a courier. It’s responsible for addressing each packet and making sure that it gets to where it’s supposed to go. Every time a packet makes the hop to another computer along the way the address is checked again so that it eventually reaches it. The beauty of this approach is that you can divide a message into lots of packets and send them all away on different routes, and they can still be put back together at the end to form the complete message.
TCP/IP needs a client and a server to function properly. With this approach, the client asks for a service (such as retrieving a Web page) from a server on the same network. With this protocol, communication is most often point-to-point, meaning that each exchange of data takes place between two points on the network.
The TCP/IP protocol layers and the programs that use them are referred to as “stateless”, which means that every request from the client is treated as unique and unrelated to the ones that came before it. This helps because it leaves network nodes free to tend to other transactions which are taking place simultaneously.
The TCP layer itself isn’t stateless if considering a whole message. The connection stays in place until every packet in a message has been received. Lots of higher-level protocols need the TCP/IP protocol layers so they can connect to the Internet. These include the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Telnet (Telnet), and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). These and others are considered to be part of the TCP/IP “suite”.
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