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Without transport protocols such as TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol), data sent over the network with no regard for how a host handles the incoming data packets would be impossible to handle. That is where the Transport layer (Layer 4 on the OSI Model) comes into play. It serves as the interface between the lower level Network layer (Layer 3 in the OSI Model) and the high-level Application layer (Layer 7 in the OSI Model).
There are a few protocols in the TCP/IP suite, including the titular TCP and UDP protocols. At its core, the transport protocol carries data between the network and specific ports. These ports are available for use in higher-level applications.
TCP is the most used transport protocol for email, web traffic, and file transfer applications such as FTP. The main advantages of TCP are that it is :
While TCP has to make it a good choice for network traffic, all of the extra error checking and handling makes the packets larger and increases the processing load to accomplish the task.
UDP is essentially the opposite of TCP in how it behaves. It is unreliable, connectionless, fast, and lightweight. The local host sends diagrams to the remote host and does not wait for any connection to be set up or any acknowledgment from the remote host. This makes it an unpopular choice compared to TCP, but UDP is the perfect protocol in some cases.
Streaming services and game servers are prime examples of times when a fast connection is essential and when error checking on each packet with TCP could cause more of a hang-up than a corrupt packet sent with UDP.
Written by Hostwinds Team / June 5, 2021