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What Is a Protocol Converter?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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A protocol converter is used in telecommunications and networking to switch the protocol of one machine to match the protocol of another, with each protocol based on many factors. The end result of a protocol converter is to allow the protocol of one machine interact with the protocol of another, increasing the amount of machines the network can use. While the penalties normally are slight, conversion from one protocol to another may slow the connection speed, especially if the converted protocol innately has a lower data rate. Most converters have a database with several protocols, and this database is used to convert the initial protocol to another format.

The majority of networks have many machines using different protocols, and these protocols dictate how a machine acts. These protocols are determined by several factors, including data rate, encryption methods, file and message formats and associated service, because some services exclusively use one protocol. A protocol converter is tasked with taking this protocol and changing it to another one.

Within a network, the large number of different machines made by separate manufacturers means there is a possibility that different machines will run on different protocols. This can make work difficult, because most protocols are inherently incompatible with one another, thus preventing machines with different protocols from integrating. By using a protocol converter, users can bypass this difficulty by changing the protocol, which allows the different machines to work together — as long as the converter supports the protocols of each machine.

A protocol converter usually is helpful, but there may be some penalties for using this device. Protocols have different speeds and data rates, and some are innately slower than others. If the converter changes a fast protocol to a slower one, then there usually are noticeable changes in speed. The converter requires power to work and the function of changing the protocol takes some time, so this also can decrease speed slightly.

Most protocol converter units are programmed to understand a handful of different protocols, and these units use an internal database to track all the protocols. This database will store all the factors associated with the known protocols, and the database also is tasked with helping this device understand what needs to be changed to alter one protocol to another. Unlike regular databases, which can be manually updated, this database typically is locked from users.

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