Six Essential Computer Networking Terms

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Man with tablet surrounded by servers

 All large businesses need stable computer networks to effectively communicate digital resources among stakeholders effectively and to thrive in the modern, global marketplace. Electrical engineers are integral to implementing the foundational infrastructure of these networks, thanks to their advanced understanding of routers, switches, and access points. With a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree, engineers can enhance their abilities and manage the following computer networking resources with greater skill.

Protocol Stack

Transmitting data across a network requires both the sender and recipient to agree on what form the data will take, which means network equipment must follow the same protocols to communicate with one another. Larger networks often use networking components that have been split into layers to maintain the data’s integrity during the transmission process.

A protocol stack runs simultaneously to implement a set of network protocols, which define each set of rules that it uses to connect. Protocols must be interoperable – with connections established vertically between network layers, and horizontally to either endpoint of data packet transmissions. These stacks enable electrical engineers to produce networks with seamless communication between network users.


When businesses communicate data using remote computers or servers, client computers must facilitate the process by interacting with the server, allowing it to retrieve files, external processing power, or other useful resources like internet/intranet access. Electrical engineers are responsible for developing network infrastructure that effectively interfaces for a particular client.


Servers, broadly defined, are remotely hosted computer programs that accept and respond to requests from client computers. Dedicated servers are those designed to carry out specific tasks:

  • Basic dedicated servers – The most lightweight hosting option because they run on dedicated servers with basic operating systems, and they are equipped with the minimum amounts of RAM and hard disk space.
  • High-end dedicated servers – Engineers install advanced network infrastructure and upgrade to a high-end server when a basic server does not offer the resources a firm needs to operate optimally. High-end servers significantly improve communication speeds and the network’s overall performance.
  • Bandwidth dedicated servers – These high-performing servers can run processes, such as audio/video streaming, that involve many data transfers.
  • Application dedicated servers – Various online-hosted software applications operate using an application server and depending on the scale of the application, the hardware specifications may vary.
  • Database dedicated servers – A large-scale server that operates using a large amount of processing power. Organizations that store and access massive volumes of data regularly rely on these servers.
  • Server mirroring dedicated servers – Businesses that need to protect their data mirror their primary servers onto identical servers, duplicating all of the data, processes, and transactions. This process creates an accessible back-up for use in a catastrophic event where the primary server is destroyed.

Internet Protocol Addresses

The internet protocol address (IP address) is a string of numbers that identifies any equipment connected to a network. This address is the start and endpoint for transmitted data to any network device. There are several different types of IP addresses:

  • Private IP – Useful for connecting devices that don’t require internet access, as they are only communicating within a private network. One example is a printer connecting to a home computer.
  • Public IP – Connects private IP addresses to the internet through an internet service provider’s shared public IP address.
  • Static IP – Never changes.
  • Dynamic IP – Changes automatically using a DHCP server.

Passive, Intelligent, and Switching Network Hubs

A network hub connects multiple network devices. Passive hubs transmit data between devices, administrators monitor data that passes through intelligent hubs, and switching hubs identify each data packet’s destination and forward them, respectively.

Network Firewalls and Routers

Routers are electronic devices with a processor and digital memory, and they can join multiple computer networks. Firewalls are software applications that monitor all of the data passing through a router, ensuring that only safe traffic passes through network ports.

An electrical engineer must understand these terms to work in any position requiring computer networking proficiency. Completing a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree enables graduates to expand their comprehension of computer networks, qualifying them for advanced positions in this field.

Learn More

At the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, graduates of the online master of science in electrical engineering program gain the necessary skills to research, design, develop, and test new technologies and industry applications — and to position themselves as leaders.

Recommended Readings

The Top 10 States for Electrical Engineers
How Electrical Engineering Has Shaped the Modern World
Satellites, Radar, and the Electrical Engineer


Cisco, Network Basics: What You Need to Know
Microsoft Tech Net, TCP/IP Protocol Architecture
Techopedia, Protocol Stack