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What is Internet? The Internet, sometimes called simply "the Net," is a worldwide system of computer networks composed of other networks and individual computers in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer. The internet makes use of the TCP/IP protocol suite (to be covered later) in order to perform connections and communication. World Wide Web (WWW) While the internet is a collection of interconnected networks and computers, the World Wide Web is the portion of the internet comprised of massive collections of files and resources that are accessible via a web browser. Client computers using a web browser send HTTP requests to a web server which returns the requested file to the client's web browser as shown below. Web communication and HTML standards are overseen by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Domains Name servers are distributed into tiers called domains. Domains are organized in a hierarchical "domain name space" which is often referred to as being like a tree structure. There are several different domain levels as listed below:
Root Level Domains - The top of the tree. Top Level Domains - These are divided into different categories. Some of the more common types are shown below:
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.com - Commercial organizations and companies (e.g. yahoo.com) .edu - Educational institutes(e.g. harvard.edu) .gov - Government owned institutes(e.g. whitehouse.gov) .mil - Military domains(e.g. navy.mil)
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.net - Gateways and other networks(e.g. internic.net) .org - Private organizations(e.g. eff.org) Country codes - International domains (e.g. .ca = Canada)
Second Level Domains - These domains make up the rest of networks as all sub-domains are categorized under this heading. So if you visit Intel's site, you are visiting the sub-domain intel.com. Within intel.com many other sub-domains may also exist.
Hosts - Hosts are the final level in the hierarchy as they are the individual computers that occupy or comprise a domain.
The HTTP Protocol The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a part of the TCP/IP protocol suite and is the set of rules for exchanging files (text, graphic images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) on the World Wide Web. It is the protocol controlling the transfer and addressing of HTTP requests and responses. The current version is HTTP 1.1 which allows multiple websites to be hosted from a single IP address. The Uniform Resource Locator
The first part is the ‘service descriptor’ which identifies the protocol being used (in the diagram above it is HTTP). The ‘//’ indicates the start of path (the root directory) which is followed by the domain name. The remainder of the address is the directory path on the server that specifies the location of the file to be fetched. An administrator may wish to keep a web site hidden from the general public which can be done by changing the port that it is accessed on. A TCP port can be specified in the URL such as http://search.harvard.edu:4847. The TCP port can be any number in the range of 0 to 65536. Bandwidth and Throughput The term bandwidth refers the size of the "pipe" that carries data. While often mistakenly used interchangeably with the term bandwidth, throughput refers to a measure of the amount of data flowing through the "pipe" over a given period of time. These 2 concepts are important when troubleshooting performance problems such as slow downloads or web pages taking to long to load. Note that there are other factors that can cause web pages to load slowly, for example, if there are too many processes running on the server or the hardware is outdated.
There are applications available that can be used to stress test a server. The table below shows the different connection types and their speeds.
Connection Dial-up connection (POTS) T-1 E-1 Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Cable modem E-3 T-3 OC-1 OC-3 Asynchronous Transfer Mode
Description Rapidly being replace by faster technologies. Large company to ISP ISP to Internet infrastructure 32-channel European equivalent of T-1 Home, small business, and enterprise access using existing phone lines Home, business, school access European version of T-3 that carries 16 E-l signals ISP to Internet infrastructure Smaller links within Internet infrastructure ISP to Internet infrastructure Smaller links within Internet infrastructure Large company backbone Internet backbone Internet backbone
Up to 56 Kbps Twisted pair 1.544 Mbps 2.048 Mbps 256 Kbps to 8 Mbps 512 Kbps to 52 Mbps 34.368 Mbps 44.736 Mbps 51.84 Mbps 155.52 Mbps 622.08 Mbps Twisted-pair, coaxial cable, or optical fiber Twisted-pair, coaxial cable, or optical fiber Twisted-pair Coaxial cable Twisted-pair or optical fiber Coaxial cable Optical fiber Optical fiber Optical fiber
The formula for calculating download times is a follows: Download time = File size / Connection speed.
Internet Clients There are a wide (and growing) variety of types of internet clients. From a hardware perspective, these can include desktop computers, Portable Digital Assistants (PDAs), E-mail machines, cell phones, WebTV, etc. Different types of software clients are then loaded on these devices in order to access the various resources and services that are available on the internet. Software clients can include applications such as browsers, e-mail clients, FTP clients, etc.
Browsers A browser is the software application run on an internet client that provides a GUI interface for accessing files on the WWW. The most popular browsers are Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator. Cookies Cookies are unencrypted text files stored on the client computer that store information about the user for use on a web site. They are commonly used to customize pages for you based on your browser type or other information and preferences that you may have provided the Web site. Electronic Mail (E-Mail) Email addresses appear in the form: user@domainname. When an email is sent, it lands on a server where it remains until it is downloaded by a client. E-mail utilizes 2 protocols to handle the delivery of messages as follows:
SMTP - SMTP is responsible for sending mail. Usually it is sent to a POP3 server. POP3 - POP3 is the responsible for downloading email from a POP3 server to an email client such as Outlook or Eudora.
Email is often used for mailing lists which can distribute a newsletter, advertisement, etc to a group of subscribed members that usually "opt-in" to join the list. A Listserver is responsible for handling this type of mass email distribution. Unwanted email is known as SPAM. MIME MIME stands for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions and was created because the SMTP protocol was designed to handle ASCII text only. MIME allows for binary files such as images to be sent via email. Web browsers use MIME to understand how to display non-HTML data within the browser. Servers insert the MIME header at the beginning of any Web transmission. Clients use this header to select an appropriate "player" application for the type of data the header indicates. Internet Protocol (IP) IP is a connectionless protocol, which means that a session is not created before sending data. IP is responsible for addressing and routing of packets between computers. It does not guarantee delivery and does not give acknowledgement of packets that are lost or sent out of order as this is the responsibility of higher layer protocols such as TCP.
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) As opposed to IP, TCP is connection oriented and assures reliable delivery of packets. When the destination host receives a segment it sends back an acknowledgement(ack). If an ack is not received by the source host within a certain period of time then the data is retransmitted. TCP uses sockets and ports to exchange data between applications. Ports provide a specific and universal location for message delivery, while sockets use the host ip address, port number and the type of service (TCP or UDP) to create a reliable connection. The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) The file transfer protocol (FTP) is the primary method of transferring files over the Internet. As a user, you can use FTP with a simple command line interface (for example, from the Windows MS-DOS Prompt window) or with a commercial program that offers a graphical user interface such as WS_FTP. Two transfer modes are used in FTP. ASCII and BINARY. ASCII mode is used for the transfer of files consisting of plain text while the BINARY mode is used all types of files not consisting of plain text (such as sound, video, executables, images etc). Failure to upload files in the proper format can cause them not to display correctly or at all. Newsgroups A newsgroup is a discussion about a particular subject consisting of notes written to a central Internet site and redistributed through Usenet, a worldwide network of news discussion groups. The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is the protocol used by computer clients and servers for managing the notes posted on Usenet newsgroups. Internet Relay Chat Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a system for chatting that involves a set of rules and conventions and client/server software. On the Web, certain sites provide servers and help you download an IRC client to your computer. Telnet Telnet is a protocol that allows you to connect to remote computers over the Internet. There is a telnet server on the remote host, which the telnet client negotiates with to establish a connection. Once connected, the client becomes a virtual terminal, and allows you to interface with the host computer from your computer. In most cases, you'll be asked to log into the remote system. This usually requires an account on that host. Occasionally
you can log in as guest or public without having an account. Web Servers A web server is the computer that is responsible for sending web pages, images and applications to internet users. Some companies host their own web servers on their equipment and others outsource this function to another company called a web host. There are 2 main web server types described below: Apache: Apache is an open source web server and is typically run on *nix servers (Unix, Linux, Free BSD, etc), although there is a version available for Windows based servers. Apache has been the leading web server software for quite a while. Microsoft: - More recently, Microsoft has developed Internet Information Server (IIS) which is a fully functional web server that runs on Windows NT and 2000 servers. Microsoft has made great gains in this market. Their ASP technology has greatly helped the success of IIS as a web server. Web Hosts A web host is a company that stores your web site pages and data on their server and delivers web page requests to your visitors for a fee. Web hosts typically provide support and maintenance functions for web sites that they host as well. There are several different types of web hosting web masters can choose from. Free - Free hosting is typically for personal homepages. Companies such as Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. These types of web hosts typically have stringent bandwidth restrictions in place. Virtual - With virtual hosting, your web site is hosted on a powerful server along with many other web sites. On a shared host it is common that each web site have their own domain name. Dedicated - Like the name implies, your web site will have it's own server. This option is necessary for very large, high traffic web sites. ASP An Application Service Provider (ASP) is a company or hosted service that provides an online software application that would normally be installed to the customer's local computer or network. The service runs completely off the hosting company's World Wide Web server and is accessed via a web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer. DNS (Domain Name Server)
The internet once used hosts files to resolve IP addresses to host names or domain names. The internet grew to the point where the administration and the traffic needed to maintain this file became unbearable and DNS was born. A DNS client(aka resolver) sends requests to the DNS nameserver which responds with the requested info, another server to query or a failure message. This process is very similar to calling an operator. You call them with a name, they check their database and give you the phone number.
Gateways Often used as a connection to a mainframe or the internet. Gateways enable communications between different protocols, data types and environments. This is achieved via protocol conversion, whereby the gateway strips the protocol stack off of the packet and adds the appropriate stack for the other side. Firewall Either a hardware or software entity that protects a network by stopping network traffic from passing through it. In most cases, a firewall is placed on the network to allow all internal traffic to leave the network (emails to the outside world, web access, etc.), but stop all traffic from the outside world from entering the internal network. While firewalls are most often found on corporate networks, there are solutions available for client/home computers called personal firewalls. Proxy Server A proxy server acts as a middle-man between clients and the Internet providing security, administrative control, and caching service. When user makes a request for an internet service, if it passes filtering requirements, the proxy server looks in its local cache of previously downloaded web pages. If the item is found in cache, the proxy server forwards it to the client. This reduces bandwidth through the gateway. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server uses Network Address Translation (NAT) to use one of its own IP addresses to request the page from the appropriate server. VPNs VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN provides secure communications over public telecommunications infrastructures by utilizing encryption and a tunneling protocol such as PPTP and L2TP. A VPN is a virtual private network and is designed for situations where security is paramount such as allowing outsiders to connect to a corporate LAN. When selective access is provided to entities outside an organization,
an intranet becomes an extranet. Extranets can potentially allow unwanted internet users access to your company network which is why VPNs are commonly used with extranets.