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Understanding common network and internet terminology.

Goals and Symptoms

Internet users may require to know the current TCP/IP network configuration values for setting up their Ethernet devices for TCP/IP connection or sending/receiving Email. In the example below, the ION meter is required to have its own IP address, Subnet mask, Gateway, DNS and SMTP server etc. Some of this information may be found on the network, or a network administrator may have to provide details. This is a document shows how to find common information and also explains the terminology.

Causes and Fixes

Displaying the current TCP/IP network configuration values:
Go to Start > Run > and type cmd and click ok. In the command line type ipconfig/all

Ipconfig is a command line tool used to control the network connections on Windows NT/2000/XP machines. There are three main commands: "all", "release", and "renew". Ipconfig displays all current TCP/IP network configuration values and refreshes Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Domain Name System (DNS) settings. Used without parameters, ipconfig displays the IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway for all adapters.

Understand internet terminology:

DNS server

Short for Domain Name System (or Service or Server), an Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses. Because domain names are alphabetic, they're easier to remember. The Internet however, is really based on IP addresses. Every time a domain name is used, a DNS service must translate the name into the corresponding IP address. For example, the domain name might translate to

The DNS system is, in fact, its own network. If one DNS server doesn't know how to translate a particular domain name, it asks another one, and so on, until the correct IP address is returned.

DHCP server

Short for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, a protocol for assigning dynamic IP addresses to devices on a network. With dynamic addressing, a device can have a different IP address every time it connects to the network. In some systems, the device's IP address can even change while it is still connected. DHCP also supports a mix of static and dynamic IP addresses.

Dynamic addressing simplifies network administration because the software keeps track of IP addresses rather than requiring an administrator to manage the task. This means that a new computer can be added to a network without the hassle of manually assigning it a unique IP address. Many ISPs use dynamic IP addressing for dial-up users.

WINS server

Short for Windows Internet Naming Service, a system that determines the IP address associated with a particular network computer. This is called name resolution. WINS supports network client and server computers running Windows and can provide name resolution for other computers with special arrangements. Determining the IP address for a computer is a complex process when DHCP servers assign IP addresses dynamically. For example, it is possible for DHCP to assign a different IP address to a client each time the machine logs onto the network.

WINS uses a distributed database that is automatically updated with the names of computers currently available and the IP address assigned to each one.

DNS is an alternative system for name resolution suitable for network computers with fixed IP addresses.

IP Address

An identifier for a computer or device on a TCP/IPnetwork. Networks using the TCP/IP protocol route messages based on the IP address of the destination. The format of an IP address is a 32-bit numeric address written as four numbers separated by periods. Each number can be zero to 255. For example, could be an IP address.

Within an isolated network, IP addresses can be assigned at random as long as each one is unique. However, connecting a private network to the Internet requires using registered IP addresses (called Internet addresses) to avoid duplicates.

Every computer that communicates over the Internet is assigned an IP address that uniquely identifies the device and distinguishes it from other computers on the Internet. An IP address consists of 32 bits, often shown as 4 octets of numbers from 0-255 represented in decimal form instead of binary form. For example, the IP address

in binary form is


But it is easier for us to remember decimals than it is to remember binary numbers, so we use decimals to represent the IP addresses when describing them. However, the binary number is important because that will determine which class of network the IP address belongs to. An IP address consists of two parts, one identifying the network and one identifying the node, or host. The Class of the address determines which part belongs to the network address and which part belongs to the node address. All nodes on a given network share the same network prefix but must have a unique host number.

Class A Network -- binary address start with 0, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 1 to 126. The first 8 bits (the first octet) identify the network and the remaining 24 bits indicate the host within the network. An example of a Class A IP address is, where "102" identifies the network and "168.212.226" identifies the host on that network.

Class B Network -- binary addresses start with 10, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 128 to 191. (The number 127 is reserved for loopback and is used for internal testing on the local machine.) The first 16 bits (the first two octets) identify the network and the remaining 16 bits indicate the host within the network. An example of a Class B IP address is where "168.212" identifies the network and "226.204" identifies the host on that network.

Class C Network -- binary addresses start with 110, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 192 to 223. The first 24 bits (the first three octets) identify the network and the remaining 8 bits indicate the host within the network. An example of a Class C IP address is where "200.168.212" identifies the network and "226" identifies the host on that network.

Class D Network -- binary addresses start with 1110, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 224 to 239. Class D networks are used to support multicasting.

Class E Network -- binary addresses start with 1111, therefore the decimal number can be anywhere from 240 to 255. Class E networks are used for experimentation. They have never been documented or utilized in a standard way.

Subnet mask

A mask used to determine what subnet an IP address belongs to. An IP address has two components, the network address and the host address. For example, consider the IP address Assuming this is part of a Class B network, the first two numbers (150.215) represent the Class B network address, and the second two numbers (017.009) identify a particular host on this network.

Subnetting enables the network administrator to further divide the host part of the address into two or more subnets. In this case, a part of the host address is reserved to identify the particular subnet. This is easier to see if we show the IP address in binary format. The full address is:


The Class B network part is:


and the host address is


If this network is divided into 14 subnets, however, then the first 4 bits of the host address (0001) are reserved for identifying the subnet.

The subnet mask is the network address plus the bits reserved for identifying the subnetwork. (By convention, the bits for the network address are all set to 1, though it would also work if the bits were set exactly as in the network address.) In this case, therefore, the subnet mask would be 11111111.11111111.11110000.00000000. It's called a mask because it can be used to identify the subnet to which an IP address belongs by performing a bitwiseAND operation on the mask and the IP address. The result is the subnetwork address:

Subnet Mask 11111111.11111111.11110000.00000000
IP Address 10010110.11010111.00010001.00001001
Subnet Address 10010110.11010111.00010000.00000000
The subnet address, therefore, is


Gateway is a node on a network that serves as an entrance to another network. In enterprises, the gateway is the computer that routes the traffic from a workstation to the outside network that is serving the Web pages. In homes, the gateway is the ISP that connects the user to the internet.

In enterprises, the gateway node often acts as a proxy server and a firewall. The gateway is also associated with both a router, which use headers and forwarding tables to determine where packets are sent, and a switch, which provides the actual path for the packet in and out of the gateway.


SMTP is short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, a protocol for sending e-mail messages between servers. Most e-mail systems that send mail over the Internet use SMTP to send messages from one server to another; the messages can then be retrieved with an e-mail client using either POP or IMAP. In addition, SMTP is generally used to send messages from a mail client to a mail server. This is why both the POP or IMAP server must be specified and the SMTP server when the e-mail application is configured.


POP is short for Post Office Protocol, a protocol used to retrieve e-mail from a mail server. Most e-mail applications (sometimes called an e-mail client) use the POP protocol, although some can use the newer IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). There are two versions of POP. The first, called POP2, became a standard in the mid-80's and requires SMTP to send messages. The newer version, POP3, can be used with or without SMTP.


IMAP is short for Internet Message Access Protocol, a protocol for retrieving e-mail messages. The latest version, IMAP4, is similar to POP3 but supports some additional features. For example, with IMAP4, a search can be done through the e-mail messages for keywords while the messages are still on mail server. The messages found can then be downloaded to the client machine.

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