Frequently Used Networking Phrases Demystified

Have you ever been in the office and heard someone talking about WAN, DHCP, DNS, etc… and felt completely left out? What the heck are the talking about? Well, you are in the right place. I am going to demystify the most common networking phrases for you so you can impress your co-workers with your understanding of networks.

DHCP
In a nutshell, automatic IP allocation is what DHCP is. It is known as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and allows for any new device on the network to automatically be assigned an IP address and the default network settings. Most routers feature DHCP enabled by default so that you do not have to manually configure IP addresses.  This is used to simplify the process of networking your devices. In some cases though, your devices IP address may change frequently so devices such as printers a better suited for Static IP’s.

Domain Name
These are similar to hostnames but are used for naming of websites IP addresses. It would be a pain to have to remember 216.239.51.99 vs google.com. Domain naming, makes using the internet much easier. 

DNS
This is the domain naming system and is how devices are able to convert Domain Names and Host Names into ip addresses. If you were to navigate to www.dfwnerdherd.com, your device would contact its DNS server and it would reply with an IP addressNetwork Jargon Demystified of DFW Nerd Herd’s server. Once this has occurred, your device would be able to connect to www.dfwnerdherd.com

Ethernet
This is the standard hardwired networking tech used nearly anywhere internet is available. If you are using a hardwired internet connection, you are most likely using an Ethernet cable (cat5, cat5e, cat6, etc…) This cable plugs into your computers ethernet port.

Firewall
This is like a security system. Firewalls are software or hardware that block traffic on certain ports or traffic coming from certain IP addresses or even block everything but a specific set of IP addresses.

Gateway
Similarly to walking through a gate, a gateway allows routing of traffic between networks. A real life example of this would be your router acting as a gateway between your LAN and the WAN of your ISP .

Hostnames
These are basically name tags that simplify naming of devices on a network. Rather than being device 192.168.1.24, the host name would be HOMECOMPUTER or DADSOFFICEPC.

HTTP
This stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which is the standard for web browsers and websites. FTP or File Transfer Protocol is an alternate web protocol that is used for transferring large files between a computer and server. Other protocols exist for different functions.

IP Adresses
I like to think of IP addresses like phone numbers. Each device on your network is assigned an IP address, or Internet Protocol Address which is used to identify, access and communicate with other devices across the network. IP addresses can be used locally or remotely. If you have configured your network with a static IP, you can access the device outside of your network.

IPv4 and IPv6
These IP addresses are the most common and stand for the IP address version, with IPv4 being older and more common and IPv6 being newer. Remember when you didn’t have to dial an area code when picking up the phone? Once we ran out of numbers, area codes were necessary. This freed up more possible number combinations. The same thing happened with IP addresses and thus the newer IPv6 was created.

ISP
This is who provides your internet service and it is aptly named the Internet Service Provider. Common providers include AT&T, Charter and Time Warner Cable.

LAN
Your home or office typically features what is called a Local Area Connection, it is a small internal network.

localhost
We talked about hostnames and how they work, now we will talk about how your computer is named. localhost refers to the device you are using and is typically pointed at 127.0.0.1. It uses a software based loopback network interface to connect to your own device.

MAC Address
These are like VIN numbers on cars, they never change and are always stuck to the device as a unique identifier. They can be changed but like a car, usually shouldn’t. Each network device has it’s own physical address or media access control address which aides in identifying different devices across a network. MAC addresses are handy in finding out which device on your network is what and determining its current IP address and if it needs to be changed. A common use of the MAC address is in identifying a network printer so that you can assign a static IP address.

NAT
Network Address Translation allows routers to share one IP address across many computers or devices. Your router features a single IP address that can be accessed outside of the network, if enabled and it is accessible from anywhere in the world. This is called a public IP address. When your router is used in a LAN, it allocates IP addresses to all of your devices while acting as a gateway. These IP addresses are local and would not be seen outside of the network. Your routers local ip address might be 192.168.1.1, whereas, its public ip might be 77.28.175.215

Network Interface / Network Adapter
Your computer typically has one or two available internet connections, either Ethernet, WiFi or both. These function as network interfaces with each having its own individual IP address. Virtual network Interface Devices can also be created which do not always correspond to hardware on your machine.

Packets
These are a basic unit of data measurement in the networking world. They are data that is sent between devices. Packets are sent and received by your computer and a server when accessing a website. Your computer uses these packets to deliver the content stored on the websites server, and forms the website displayed on your machine.

Ports
These allow traffic to move back and fourth across networks. Some applications use certain ports on a network. Often times ports need to be secured to prevent vulnerabilities or hack attempts. Ports are numbered between 1 and 65535, with each being closed or opened and assigned to a specific application. Some applications use more than one network port.

Protocol – TCP, UDP, ICMP and more
Internet protocols allow for multiple ways of communication across the internet. The most common protocols are TCP and UDP. ICMP is used primarily for network device status checks. Depending on the type of communication, different protocols are available for communication across the network.

Public IP Address
This is an IP address that can be accessed anywhere outside of the LAN and is different from the local IP address.

Router
This is a necessary device that is used across all networks. A router allows data to move between devices and across the internet. The router takes any outgoing traffic from devices on your local network and passes it to the internet. It also accepts incoming traffic from the internet and then passes it to your local devices.

Static IP Address
This is an address that is set to never change and assigned statically on the device and or router. Unlike DHCP, when a static IP is assigned, the IP address will never change. This comes in handy for networked printers.

URL
This is a web address that you type in your address bar. It stands for Uniform Resource Locator and it is how your computer or device is able to use HTTP to connect to the server that hosts the website you are attempting to access. The computer then contacts its own DNS server to find the IP address for the website and uses it to connect using TCP  protocol.

WAN
Similarly to a LAN, a WAN or Wide Area Network is a network that covers a larger area. A good an example of this is your ISP providing you with a connection to their WAN which is used as a conduit to connect you to the internet.

I hope you found use out of this article and that you now are able to talk intelligently about networks. If you need help setting up or securing your network in the Dallas or Fort Worth area, please give us a call at 817.781.6940 so that we can get you on the right track.

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