The network layer is in charge of routing network messages (data) from one computer to another. The common protocols at this layer are IP (which is paired with TCP at the transport layer for Internet network) and IPX (which is paired with SPX at the transport layer for some older Macintosh, Linus, UNIX, Novell and Windows networks). Because of the growth in Internet-based networks, IP/TCP are becoming the leading protocols for most networks.
Every network device (such as network interface cards and printers) have a physical address called a MAC (Media Access Control) address. When you purchase a network card, the MAC address is fixed and cannot be changed. Networks using the IP and IPX protocols assign logical addresses (which are made up of the MAC address and the network address) to the devices on the network, This can all become quite complex – suffice it to say that the network layer takes care of assigning the correct addresses (via IP or IPX) and then uses routers to send the data packets to other networks.