The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model describes how information from a software application in one computer moves through a network medium to a software application in another computer. The OSI reference model is a conceptual model composed of seven layers, each specifying particular network functions. The model was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in 1984, and it is now considered the primary architectural model for intercomputer communications. The OSI model divides the tasks involved with moving information between networked computers into seven smaller, more manageable task groups. A task or group of tasks is then assigned to each of the seven OSI layers. Each layer is reasonably self-contained, so that the tasks assigned to each layer can be implemented independently. This enables the solutions offered by one layer to be updated without adversely affecting the other layers.

The seven layers of the OSI reference model can be divided into two categories: upper layers and lower layers. The upper layers of the OSI model deal with application issues and generally are implemented only in software. The highest layer, application, is closest to the end user. Both users and application-layer processes interact with software applications that contain a communications component. The term upper layer is sometimes used to refer to any layer above another layer in the OSI model. The lower layers of the OSI model handle data transport issues. The physical layer and data link layer are implemented in hardware and software. The other lower layers generally are implemented only in software. The lowest layer, the physical layer, is closest to the physical network medium (the network cabling, for example) , and is responsible for actually placing information on the medium.

Reference Layer Function
7 Application Layer Application programs that use the network
6 Presentation Layer Standardises data presented to the applications
5 Session Layer Manages sessions between applications
4 Transport Layer Provides error detection and correction
3 Network Layer Manages network connections
2 Data Link Layer Provides data delivery across the physical connection
1 Physical Layer Defines the physical network media

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