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TCP/IP and the Internet


The two primary topics in this section — TCP/IP and the Internet — generally are closely related; you need the TCP/IP protocol to connect to and use the Internet. But even if you don't need to access the Internet, TCP/IP still offers an excellent means of interconnecting disparate operating systems on a single network.

TCP/IP

TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP, which actually comprises two protocols — TCP and IP — serves as a network transport protocol widely supported by a majority of operating systems, including all versions of UNIX, Windows NT, Windows 98, Novell NetWare, Macintosh, Open VMS, and others. Originally, TCP/IP was developed through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to support defense-related projects. TCP/IP offers a number of advantages that make it an excellent network transport protocol, particularly for connecting dissimilar computers and for enabling wide-area networking.

The TCP/IP protocol included with Windows 98, dubbed Microsoft TCP/IP, operates as a 32-bit, protected-mode transport that you can use as your only network protocol or in conjunction with another protocol. You might use NetBEUI within your LAN, for example, and use TCP/IP to connect to the Internet through a router or dial-up connection. The following list describes some of Microsoft TCP/IP's features and advantages.

Although setting up TCP/IP is not difficult per se, it can prove to be a complex task.

The Internet

The Internet began as a small group of interconnected LANs and has grown into a world-wide network that spans many thousands of networks and millions of computers. Although the Internet began primarily as a defense- and education-related network, it has grown to encompass government and commercial networks and users, as well as individual users. The Internet really is nothing more than a huge wide area network. On this network, however, you can access an amazing variety of services and data. You can send and receive email around the globe, transfer files, query enormous databases, participate in special-interest groups, and much more.

There are many ways to access the Internet. If you have a user account on one of the popular online services, such as CompuServe or America Online, or are a member of the Microsoft Network (MSN), you can gain access to the Internet through those services. Or, your network at work might be connected to the Internet through a dedicated or dial-up connection. You might connect from your computer to an Internet service provider through a dial-up connection. Regardless of the method you use to connect to the Internet, you can't do it without TCP/IP. Understanding TCP/IP is critical to configuring and initiating your Internet connection.