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What Is the OSI Model?

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The OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Model is a conceptual framework that standardizes the functions of a communication system into seven distinct categories, known as layers. This model was created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to provide a common reference for communication system designers and vendors.

What is the OSI model?

The OSI model, or open systems interconnection model, is a conceptual framework used to understand how different network protocols interact and work together to provide network services. It has been designed to facilitate communication between different systems without requiring changes to the underlying hardware and software. The OSI model is divided into 7 layers, each performing a specific function in the process of communicating over a network.

What are the 7 layers of the OSI model?

The seven layers of the OSI model are as follows:

  1. Physical Layer: The lowest layer of the OSI model, it’s responsible for the transmission and reception of unstructured raw bit stream over a physical medium.
  2. Data Link Layer: Ensures error-free transmission over the physical layer. It organizes bits into frames and controls access to the media.
  3. Network Layer: Takes care of routing and transferring data between networks. It manages network congestion and determines the best path for data transfer.
  4. Transport Layer: Ensures end-to-end reliable data transmission. It provides flow control, multiplexing, error checking, and recovery of data if it is lost.
  5. Session Layer: Establishes, maintains, and ends communication sessions between computers.
  6. Presentation Layer: Transforms data into the form that the application layer can accept. It does encryption, decryption, compression, and decompression.
  7. Application Layer: The topmost layer, it interfaces directly with the software applications to provide services like email, file transfer, and web browsing.

Each layer has a distinct role to play in the process of communicating over a network, ensuring that networks operate smoothly and efficiently.


While both the OSI and TCP/IP models serve as conceptual frameworks for understanding and describing network protocol stacks, there are notable differences between the two.

The OSI Model, which consists of seven layers, is often considered more theoretical, providing a comprehensive view of network functioning, from physical data transmission to application-level interactions. It was created with a broad goal of universal interoperability across diverse communication systems.

On the other hand, the TCP/IP model, which has four layers, is a more practical and streamlined framework, built on the foundation of the early internet. The TCP/IP model combines the functions of OSI’s presentation and session layer into its application layer, and the functions of the data link and physical layer into one network interface layer.

The OSI model plays a crucial role in understanding how data is transmitted over networks. It provides a clear framework for understanding the interaction of different network protocols. While the OSI model is more theoretical and the TCP/IP model is more practical, understanding both models can provide valuable insights into the workings of network communication.

The practical application of the OSI model in modern networking

The OSI reference model, with its 7 layers of networking, serves as an excellent tool for understanding how open systems interact to facilitate network communication. Whether you are an IT professional or simply interested in understanding the internet layers, learning about the OSI stack can add value to your knowledge.

Next Steps

Building an efficient and effective IT team requires a centralized solution that acts as your core service deliver tool. NinjaOne enables IT teams to monitor, manage, secure, and support all their devices, wherever they are, without the need for complex on-premises infrastructure.

Learn more about Ninja Endpoint Management, check out a live tour, or start your free trial of the NinjaOne platform.

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