Understanding some common network protocols

Understanding common network protocols
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Raspberry Pi

Deeper exploration into the world of inter-computer communications will reveal more and more types of communications (e.g. radio waves, Ethernet, Bluetooth, etc.), their interfaces and the network protocols they use.


From Techopedia, the term network protocols are defined as “formal standards and policies comprised of rules, procedures and formats that define communication between two or more devices over a network. Network protocols govern the end-to-end processes of timely, secure and managed data or network communication.”

The network that is referred to can either be a local area network (LAN) or the internet. Client or local devices are those requesting data and server or remote devices are those responding with data.

Understanding some common network protocols is written as short notes in an attempt to understand these protocols by comparing their similarities and differences.

Common network protocols

The common network protocols are HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SCP, SFTP, FTPS and SSH.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

  • Transferring files (text, graphic images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) on the World Wide Web
  • Similar to HTTPS, but less secure
  • Uses TCP/UDP port 80
  • Used by web browsers (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer), to display their content

HTTPS (Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

  • Similar to HTTP, but ensures a secure connection using SSL encryption technology
  • Request and response data is secured using SSL certificates
  • Uses TCP/UDP port 443
  • Recommended as standard by Google search

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

SCP (Secure Copy)

  • Network protocol supporting file transfers (only) between hosts on a network.
  • Part of SSH suite
  • Uses TCP/UDP port 22
  • E.g. WinSCP
  • Can copy file(s) anywhere you have the privilege to

SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol)


SSH (Secure Socket Shell)

  • Network protocol that provides a secure way to access a remote computer by using username/password authentication
  • SSH also refers to the suite of utilities that implement the protocol
  • Uses TCP/UDP port 22
  • E.g. PuTTY & sshpass command


These are not network protocols, but are used with data transfers.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

  • Security technology that provides a secure way between computers to establish an encrypted link between them
  • It is largely aimed at protecting the user’s privacy
  • E.g. HTTPS and FTPS
  • Used between web servers and web browsers
  • Web server requires an SSL certificate in order to create a Private Key and a Public Key
  • It is now called TLS

Notes on Raspbian (Linux)

  • On older versions of Raspbian SSH is automatically activated
  • SSH can be manually activated/deactivated using the raspi-config tool

Notes on OpenELEC / Kodi (Linux)

  • On OpenELEC, SSH must be enabled manually for the SSH protocol to be used

Network accessories

To get started with a local network, you might need some of the following accessories.

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