Nodes on computer networks use IP addresses to identify themselves in data transfer. In most networks, a single router handles traffic from potentially dozens of computers. This can lead to confusion and slowed data transfers. Subnets, however, create logical subdivisions of a network to speed up data processing. You can designate subnets, but you have to understand the basics behind them in order for them to work correctly.

**Octet Binaries **

IP addresses like 13.5.40.2 are expressed in decimal notation to make them easier to read at the user level, but they are actually a set of four binary octets – an eight-bit series. The maximum decimal value in a binary octet is 255, or 11111111 in binary. So it’s really 13.5.40.2 00001101.00000101.00101000.00000010. The first octet determines the class of the IP address and thus the number of hosts and subnets you can have.

**Network Classes **

Networks are assigned one of three classes: class A, class B, and class C. These depend on the first number of the IP address. Class A consists of IP addresses from 1.0.0.0 to 127.0.0.0. Track 127 is used for the test. Class B networks have IP addresses from 128.0.0.0 to 191.255.0.0. Class C networks range from 192.0.0.0 to 223.255.255.0. Each of these classes has one, two, and three octets, respectively, available for the network address, leaving the remaining octets available for the host address.

**Subnet Mask Equation **

Each network class has a default subnet mask created by changing all network octet bit values to 1. Class The default subnet mask is 255.0.0.0, class B is 255.255.0.0, and class C is 255,255,255.0. However, you are not going to actually use the default mask. You have to calculate the remaining octets of the subnet mask based on how many networks and hosts you need. The formula for calculating networks and hosts on a subnet is 2n – 2, where “n” is a power of 2. The subtraction of 2 represents the two IP addresses you cannot use: The network address and broadcast address.

**Subnet Example Mask **

Suppose you have a class C network with IP address 192.168.1.0 and you want to create six subnets that can handle 30 hosts each. Using the equation to determine the number of networks, 2n – 2 = 6, you get 3. Therefore, you allocate three bits to the network, leaving the remainder available as hosts. Count the number of network bits on the left side of the octet, convert them to decimal and add them. The three bits of 128, 64 and 32 add to 224. Therefore, this subnet mask is 255.255.255.224.

**Increments Network **

Once you have discovered the subnet mask, you have to determine the network increments or where each subnet starts from. You can determine this by adding the bit values. In the example, the subnet mask is 224. The values of an octet are 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2 and 1. Adding 128, 64 and 32 gives you 224, so your network increments will be multiples of 32. Therefore, the first subnet address is 192.168.1.0, the second 192.168.1.32, the third 192.168.1.64 and so on.

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