What is A Router and what do they do?

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Routers are an essential piece of technology for most businesses. They help to connect your devices and networks to the internet, as well as protect your technology from security threats and create local networks.

What is Routing?

Routing is the ability to select a path across one or more networks.  Routers intelligently select the best possible path for transferring data packets between devices and networks. This can apply to any form of network however routing devices tend to handle the pathway for Internet Protocol or IP packets; in this form, the process is known as internet routing. By using tables, these devices are able to decide how best to transfer data packets along networking paths and record this information.

The Routing Table

Routing tables can be both static and dynamic, with dynamic tables automatically updating to choose the fastest or best path for packets to take between devices. Static tables, in comparison, must be updated manually. They retain past information and use this to route packets rather than assessing the best possible path. Because of this, static routing tables require less computing power and so they are often used for small networks. For larger networks, a dynamic routing table is more productive and efficient.

What Is A Router?

Routers are the hardware behind the routing process. With the use of an IP address table routers are able to decide the best path to send packets between devices and networks. They connect two or more IP networks and transfer data between them as needed.

In terms of functionality, routers are essential for connecting your network or device to the internet, allowing you to send or receive data from websites around the world. WAN ports are used to connect to an internet source, such as a broadband modem. By connecting to an internet source via WAN, or Wide Area Access, ports, routers are able to connect to the internet and share this connection with any devices within the network.

By using NAT, network address translation, routers are able to translate the private IP addresses of devices into public IP addresses that can be used by the internet network.

Routers dynamically assign IP addresses to different devices using, DHCP. This ensures that the router doesn’t become backlogged by devices that connected to the device in the past and assign any active device an IP address.

Layer Three and Layer Four Switches

Switches can combine the functionality of a switch and a router into one device on certain layers of the TCP/IP model. Layer 3 or layer 4 switches are capable of acting as a router, as well as a switch, making them a great choice for many businesses; layer 3 and 4 switches are often more efficient in terms of space as well as speed, as an additional jump between devices is not necessary.

Layer 3 or 4 switches are worth considering in place of a router. For more information, read our article on different layer switches.

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