Protocols are sets of rules that set out how devices will communicate with one another. A protocol could include the following:

  • Handshaking – devices agree to communicate
  • Indicators – how the devices will indicate if messages have been sent or received.
  • Compression – devices agree compression techniques (so that they can decompress files)
  • Error Checking – how devices will check for errors


There is a huge range of different protocols – you only need to be familiar with a few:

TCP/IP – this allows communication between devices on a network. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) allows packets to be sent and received. IP (Internet Protocol) regulates the contents of packets and the address system that they use.

HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol allows multimedia websites to be downloaded.

HTTPS – ensures any communication with this site is encrypted. These are used

FTP – File Transfer Protocol allows files to be uploaded (or transferred).

UDP – User Datagram Protocol is used for streaming music, games, videos and live broadcasts

SMTP – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol allows emails to be sent

IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol allows you to download emails from the mail server. Emails can be accessed on multiple devices as they are always stored on the server.

POP3 – Post Office Protocol 3 facilitates downloads from mail servers. However, emails are deleted automatically from the server when they are downloaded and so are only accessible on the client device they were downloaded too.

VOIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol allows voice calls to be made using the internet (eg voice calls on Skype or WhatsApp (Note: this does not include video calls)

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