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We live in an interconnected, super-networked world. New technologies constantly appear on the market and, unless you constantly read networking, computing or hacker news, you may find terminologies floating around that you don’t understand.

Here we’ll explore 10 common networking terms, what they mean and where you are likely to encounter them.

WLAN

A Wireless Local Area Network links two or more devices via wireless distribution. A WLAN usually operates within a restricted area, only providing connectivity to those devices within its confines. Any device that moves outside of the coverage area will lose its connection to the network.

WLAN

You likely operate a WLAN in your own home WiFi To The Max: Get the Most Out of Wireless Networking on Windows 8 WiFi To The Max: Get the Most Out of Wireless Networking on Windows 8 Windows 8 made connecting to a WiFi network simpler. Consequently, some things don't work the way they used to in Windows 7. If you have run into issues, there likely is an easy fix. Read More , using a router to provide wireless data transmission between your devices.

WPAN

A Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) describes a network used to communicate between intrapersonal devices. When you are sat at your desk using a Bluetooth mouse, headphones, mouse and keyboard How to Set up Bluetooth in Windows 7, Make PC Discoverable & Add Devices How to Set up Bluetooth in Windows 7, Make PC Discoverable & Add Devices Bluetooth is an alternative to wires – with Bluetooth, you can connect Bluetooth-enabled phones, mice, headsets, printers, keyboards, tablets, and many other devices with a Bluetooth-supporting computer. You can transfer files back and forth, use... Read More , you are utilising a WPAN.

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Bluetooth Symbol

WPANs describe the communication between devices in close proximity, but can also refer to devices in a wider-range i.e. connected via a Wireless Local Area Network (see above for more information on WLANs).

Protocols – IPv4 and IPv6

The Internet uses a range of standardized protocols allowing network communication IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] More recently, there's been a lot of talk about switching to IPv6 and how it will bring a lot of benefits to the Internet. But, this "news" keeps repeating itself, as there's always an occasional... Read More . The Internet protocol suite is known as TCP/IP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.

IPCONFIG

The first major version of TCP/IP was Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4). Its successor is Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), though both protocols are in use.

We use both protocols to define data transmission across the Internet. They also define the number of available Internet Protocol (IP) addresses available for use at any given time. For instance, you may have seen an Internet Protocol address online that looks like this:

192.19.254.1

This series of numbers refers to a specific location on the Internet How The Internet Works [INFOGRAPHIC] How The Internet Works [INFOGRAPHIC] Read More . Every site, router, and device connected to the internet is assigned a specific IP. IPv4 limited the number of available IP addresses to 4,294,967,296. Sounds like a lot? IPv4 address exhaustion has long passed, way back in February, 2011. This is because IPv4 IPs were designed as 32-bit integers, limiting the available number of addresses. See the below image for a brief explanation.

IPv4 Address

The IPv6 standard was launched to address this problem IPv6 & The Coming ARPAgeddon [Technology Explained] IPv6 & The Coming ARPAgeddon [Technology Explained] Read More by using 128-bit hexadecimal IP addresses, providing a 3,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 address space for the Internet to gradually spread into. An IPv6 IP address looks different to its IPv4 counterpart, too:

4532:1cb8:75a3:4942:1771:9e2c:1350:8331

Whilst IPv6 has provided necessary IP address expansion required for a rapidly expanding Internet, it is not interoperable with IPv4. This means that IPv6 essentially operates on a parallel network. However, there are a number of IP translation gateways already in operation, so you shouldn’t notice much difference.

ipv6

NAT

Network Address Translation is most commonly used by routers 1.2 Million Routers Are Vulnerable To Being Hijacked. Is Yours One Of Them? 1.2 Million Routers Are Vulnerable To Being Hijacked. Is Yours One Of Them? Read More to share a single IP address (see above for Protocols – IPv4 and IPv6 for more information) across multiple devices.

If you have a wireless router in your home, it likely uses NAT to enable each of your connected devices to access the Internet through a single gateway (see below for more information on Gateways).

Router

From the outside, your router has just a single IP address. Your router can assign individual IP addresses to the devices in your home network, creating a Local Area Network.

Gateway

Gateway refers to a device in your network that enables traffic to move freely from one network to another. Your router works as a gateway, allowing data to route effectively from the Internet to your connected devices.

Packet

A packet is the most common format of data carried over the Internet How To Bypass Internet Censorship How To Bypass Internet Censorship This article examines some of the most common methods used to filter content as well as emerging trends. Read More . A packet traditionally consists of two types of data: control information and user data.

IPv4 Packet

Control information refers to the data the network requires to deliver the user data: source and destination addresses, sequencing information and error detection codes.

User data refers to the actual data being transferred, be that looking up a website, clicking a link, or transferring files.

P2P

Peer-to-Peer is a term increasingly featured in the news. As a number of major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) move to restrict illegal downloading Why Safe Torrenting Died With The Pirate Bay Why Safe Torrenting Died With The Pirate Bay As far as "popular" torrenting is concerned, the comparative safety that existed at The Pirate Bay is gone, and safe torrent downloads with it. Read More , P2P networks are now highly scrutinized.

p2p network

A P2P network partitions tasks to individual computers, or peers, in a distributed network. This means each computer in the network provides a portion of its resources to allow distribution of data without requiring a central distribution centre. Peers are both simultaneously users and providers to the network, allowing P2P networks to engage in more powerful activities, whilst remaining beneficial to all connected users.

P2P is widely known due its involvement in file-sharing networks, of which some shared content breaks copyright law. However, P2P file-sharing is also used for many legal activities How P2P (Peer to Peer) File Sharing Works How P2P (Peer to Peer) File Sharing Works There has always been a dark side to the Internet, and from the earliest days piracy was rampant. It began with message boards even before the traditional “internet” as we know it was even born,... Read More as its task distribution allows low resource data transfer of larger files. Many Linux distros use P2P The Best Linux Distributions The Best Linux Distributions There are many Linux distributions available for a number of different purposes, which makes it difficult to choose at times. Here's a list of the very best to help you decide. Read More to keep operating costs down, whilst cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin How Does Bitcoin Work? How Does Bitcoin Work? About a year ago when the Bitcoin train was just starting to gather steam, a friend turned to me and asked, "So why can't you just copy a Bitcoin?" Read More use P2P to ensure the integrity of the network.

immunicity-piratebay

Other commonly used P2P networks are Skype and Spotify. Both of these applications use a combination of P2P networking and direct streaming to lighten the load on their own resources, as well as the users.

Protocols – TLS/SSL – HTTPS

Transport Layer Security and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer form an important part of keeping your data secure on the Internet. They are cryptographic protocols that allow you to communicate sensitive data securely with a range of websites, such as online banking portals, retailers and government gateways.

HTTPS

TLS/SSL works by layering encryption Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Encryption isn’t only for paranoid conspiracy theorists, nor is it just for tech geeks. Encryption is something every computer user can benefit from. Tech websites write about how you can encrypt your digital life, but... Read More onto of the existing Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) we all use to browse the web. This gives us Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which you may have noted when accessing your banking, or purchasing through Amazon.

DDoS

The term Distributed Denial of Service has featured in more and more headlines as well known corporations fall victim to hacking attacks. Christmas Day, 2014, will remain in the memory for many gamers as the day when, after unwrapping a shiny new Xbox One or PS4 and plugging into the Internet for the first time all online activity was effectively blocked by a DDoS.

Denial-of-service_attack

Denial of Service isn’t always malicious What Is The Difference Between A Good Hacker & A Bad Hacker? [Opinion] What Is The Difference Between A Good Hacker & A Bad Hacker? [Opinion] Every now and then, we hear something in the news about hackers taking down sites, exploit a multitude of programs, or threatening to wiggle their way into high-security areas where they shouldn't belong. But, if... Read More . If too many users attempt to access the same IP address at a single moment, it can overload the website’s hosting server, causing access to the service to be denied. This unintentional denial of service is a regular occurrence when a website with a large user-base links to a much smaller one. Indeed, the news roundup site Reddit affectionately calls this “the Reddit hug of death.”

However, it can also be used maliciously by those wishing to purposefully render a service unavailable. This is where the “distributed” aspect comes into play. A hacker can use a network of computers to flood a single (or set of) IP with requests, forcing the service offline.

trojan-horse

These attacks are usually coordinated, and usually use a network of compromised computers, called zombies. Zombies are systems that have been infected with a virus or Trojan horse that allows a remote user to control the resources of that system. Zombies are more widely known as bots, and give rise to the term botnet – a network of compromised systems.

DNS

The Domain Name System is how our computers translate our regular, everyday text into network readable IP addresses. When you type makeuseof.com into your browser address bar and hit enter, your computer contacts its DNS server. The DNS server responds with the corresponding IP address of makeuseof.com, connects, and brings you up glorious technology content for your enjoyment.

Wikimedia Servers

You can set your DNS servers to be different Change DNS Presets On The Fly With ChrisPC DNS Switch Change DNS Presets On The Fly With ChrisPC DNS Switch Playing with the DNS settings on your computer could significantly speed up your browsing or help you access region-blocked content. Doing that manually is a drag; just use a DNS switch. Read More from their default, as a number of alternative DNS providers exist, such as Google Public DNS or OpenDNS. In some cases, switching to an alternative DNS provider can return small speed benefits How to Optimize Your DNS for Faster Internet How to Optimize Your DNS for Faster Internet "The Internet is just a series of tubes" as one man so wisely stated. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. There’s a complex architecture that supports the Internet, and data packets need to travel... Read More when loading webpages, or improve reliability with your internet service provider.

Has this article helped your network understanding? Would you have included anything different? Let us know below!

Image Credits: WiFi Range, Bluetooth Symbol, IPv4, IPv6, Router, IPv4 Packet, Networked Computers, DDoS Architecture, Server Cabling and Ethernet all via Wikimedia Commons, IPCONFIG via Flickr user Fallenninja

  1. Clijo
    September 6, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    UHH. there are many you missed like other forms of network WAN,PAN,CAN,MAN,ETC..AND NIC,FTP,HTTP, WIFI-( WHICH NO ONE KNOWS EXACTLY.. ITS- WIRELESS FIDELITY) AND OTHERS..A LOT MORE WHICH ARE MORE COMPLICATED..

  2. Doc
    February 12, 2015 at 1:56 am

    "Other commonly used P2P networks are Skype and Spotify."
    Since being purchased by Microsoft, Skype has slowly converted over to a server-based system, partially to improve connections, and partly to serve law-enforcement requests for user information (a la NSA).

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