Protocols and Handshaking

Talking the Same Language

Because there may be a range of different computers, printers, modems, etc on a network they all have to agree to 'speak the same language' and also agree not to talk at the same time. For this to happen the computers abide by certain rules ... which are called network protocols.

One of the rules in a protocol deals with how the computers introduce themselves to each other, this is called handshaking. One example of handshaking occurs each time you log onto the Internet: your own home computer will handshake with the main computer owned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Network Protocols

The Network Basic Input Output System was initially developed by IBM for use in small networks. It is a protocol that defines the input and output operations over a network. Since NetBIOS was designed for small networks it is very efficient for small LANs. This protocol will not work on its own with WANs, though.
Both NetBIOS and NetBEUI are able to use text names for computers. This makes networking for users much simpler - as computers can be referred to by names rather than a long string of numbers. The disadvantage of this is that each computer needs to keep telling its name to all the others on the network to ensure that all the other computers know it's still there. This is one reason why this protocol can only work on a small network: on a large network all the computers constantly reminding the others that they're there would slow network operations down to an impractical level.
NetBEUI is an extended version of NetBIOS and is the protocol that you would probably use if you were setting up a home network on computers running mainly Microsoft software.
Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol is the accepted standard network protocol used by many different types of computer, using different operating systems, on many different sizes of network. It is so reliable that it is the protocol used for the Internet.
It is, however, a complex system requiring a certain amount of training. For this reason TCP/IP is best suited to networks of any size that may change in time. Because it is adaptable you are not tied to using one particular type of computer or one brand of operating system.
The Internetworking Packet eXchange is a protocol developed by the networking company Novell. They wanted to build a protocol that was as flexible as TCP/IP but not as complex. The advantage of IPX is that it configures itself: you don't need a network administrator to set up seperate network addresses on each computer.

Network Operating Systems

Because networking is now such a popular way to work on a computer most current operating systems have networking capability built into them already. This means that the operating system is able to communicate with other computers over a network using a choice of one or more protocols.

Microsoft Windows
(95 upwards)
Versions of Microsoft Windows from Windows 95 onwards and versions of Windows NT Server have included networking tools that make configuring and maintaining a network very easy.
In Microsoft networks you share various resources (like printers or disk drives) you can specify who is able to share these resources and when they are allowed to use them. Each network computer can give a name to each of these resources. For example each computer on a school network may have access to a common bit of disk drive where all the pupils folders are stored. Microsoft Windows can give (or map) that disk drive a name or letter - such as Z:. So each pupil's workstation may have a floppy drive called A:, a hard disk called C:, and a network drive called Z:.
Novell Netware Before Microsoft Windows NT was released Netware by Novell was the most popular network operating system for PCs.
The operating system is fast and reliable however it is more difficult to administer than Microsoft Windows.
UNIX and Linux UNIX was developed at AT&T Bell Laboratories to be a small, fast, multiuser operating system. It has been developed so that it can run on just about any computer (Silicon Graphics' film special effects systems use UNIX; Apple's OS X operating system is based on UNIX; the free UNIX clone called Linux is run on many PCs).

Now, answer these questions:

  1. What is the name for the communication rules over a network ?
  2. What is the name for the process where computers introduce themselves ?
  3. What does ISP stand for ?
  4. What protocol is most favoured for home networks ?
  5. What protocol was developed by the company Novell ?
  6. What protocol is mainly used by the Internet ?
  7. What term is used to assign a drive letter to a shared network resource ?
  8. Which one of these is a Network Operating System ?

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