Basic Networking Terms and Definitions

Managing networks requires you to understand basic networking terms and definitions. This tutorial introduces the basic networking terminology you need to understand networking concepts.

Networking exams such as CCNA, RHCE, and MCSE require candidates to configure and manage various network-related topics. To practice these topics, you need to understand the following network terminology.


A network is a group of devices connected to share information and data.


A node is a device on a network that can exchange data and information with other devices on the network.

IP address

An IP address is a numeric address. All addresses on a network require at least one unique IP address. There are two versions of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6.


It is the classical version of IP addressing. It uses 32 bits to form an address. Bits can be classified into two types: network bits and host bits. Network bits are used to group IP addresses into subnets. Host bits are used to provide a unique identity to the device.

IPv4 address notation/format

IPv4 organizes IP addresses into four sections. It uses a dot after each section. In each section, it keeps eight bits.

bits organization

It can be written into two notations: binary and decimal.

Subnet mask/netmask

A subnet mask or netmask is a 32-bit address. It is always used with an IPv4 address. It tells the number of network and host bits in the IP address. It uses the same notation and format the IP address uses.

example of ip address


CIDR is another way to write a subnet mask with the IP address. It writes only the number of network bits in the IP address. Since an IP address always contains 32 bits, the remaining bits are always host bits. For example, a CIDR value /24 has 24 network bits and 8 (32 -24 = 8) host bits.

Default gateway

A default gateway is a device that connects the local network with the remote network. Generally, a router interface works as a default gateway. IP configurations include the gateway IP address. If the destination device does not exist in the local network, the device sends the data packets to the gateway device. The gateway device forwards the data packets to the gateway device connected to the destination device.


DNS is a server that translates hostnames into IP addresses. It allows us to access network resources by name.

MAC address

A MAC address is a hardware address of the network interface. Each network interface uses a unique MAC address. Devices use MAC addresses with IP addresses to identify devices in the local network.

NIC (Network Interface card)

A NIC is a card that connects the device to the network. Each NIC uses a unique IP configuration. For example, if a PC has two NICs, both need a separate IP configuration. A NIC can be wired or wireless.

Wired network

A wired network uses network cables to connect devices. There are three types of network cables: coxals, twisted pairs, and fiber opticals. You can choose any based on network requirements and budgets.

Wireless network

A wireless network does not use cables. It uses radio spectrums to transmit data. It is cheaper than a wired network but provides less data transfer speed.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is a virtual network that allows the client and server to exchange information over a public network as if they were local, even if the client and the server are in different places.

VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network)

A VLAN is a group of devices that share broadcast messages on the local network.


IPv6 is the replacement protocol for IPv4. As mentioned earlier, each device on a network needs a unique IP address. The Internet is the largest network. It contains millions of millions of devices. With each passing day, these numbers are growing. Since IPv4 uses only 32 bits, it fails to provide unique IP addresses to all devices. IPv6 uses 128 bits. It includes sufficient IP addresses to provide a unique IP address to all devices.

ipv6 ip address format

Network relationship

When we connect devices in a network, devices build certain relationships to exchange information. A network relationship defines the role of devices and data flow in the network.

Peer-to-peer/ workgroup networking

In peer-to-peer or workgroup networking, all devices have equal rights. Any device can join or leave the network at any time. There is no centralized authentication. All devices manage authentication independently on the local system.

Server/client networking

In server/client networking, the server has all rights. A device can join or leave the network only after getting approval from the server. The server provides centralized authentication.


Protocols are rules that standardize and manage data transmission between devices. Two devices will exchange data only when they speak the same protocols.


DHCP provides and manages IP configuration on the network. It works in server/client mode. Administrators configure a pool of IP addresses on the server. The server provides an IP configuration from the pool to each client who requests the IP configuration.

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