What is a router, and how does it work?

January 27, 2022

What is Router in Networking? Simply put, a device that communicates and exchanges data between the internet server and the devices in your home that connects to the internet is known as a router. As suggested by the name, it “routes” traffic between the devices and the internet.

Routers can also be very different, and depending on the manufacturing quality, features, security, and upgrades, the internet service may vary as well. With the right kind of router in your home, you may be able to enjoy faster internet service, help protect your family from cyber threats, and avoid those annoying Wi-Fi dead spots.

It’s really easy to grasp what a good router has to offer — you don’t have to be a computer genius. All it takes is to know what you need it for — understanding how routers work will help you choose the right equipment for your home.

How do routers work?

A typical home probably has a range of internet-connected devices — personal computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, thermostats, smart TVs, and more. With your router, these devices form a network that communicates through the same server. A router tries to direct incoming and outgoing internet traffic on that network in the fastest and most efficient way.

The data travelling on your home network could be an email, a movie, or a live feed from your baby cam, each of which takes up varying amounts of bandwidth. Ensuring that information is delivered quickly and correctly is a big task and keeps getting bigger as you add more and more devices — think Internet of Things  — you ask your router to do more.

How modems differ from routers

A router and your devices aren’t the only components on your home network — there’s also the modem. In fact, without the modem, all you’d have is your local network with no access to the internet.

The modem’s main job is to bring the internet service from your provider into your home. It then connects to your router, delivering that internet connectivity to your home network. In simple words, it acts as a bridge between the server and your router.

When most internet services were delivered over telephone lines, modems enabled communication between the digital devices in your home and the analogue signals used on telephone lines. With today’s internet connections, including cable and satellite, modems play a similar but different role.

What are the different types of routers?

When it comes to routers, there are just two common types that you need to consider:

  1. Wireless routers. As its name suggests, this kind of router doesn’t require a  wired connection to connect your device to the internet. A wireless router is directly connected to a modem by a cable. This allows it to exchange information on the internet. The router then creates and communicates with your home Wi-fi network using built-in antennas. Finally, all of the devices on your home network have internet access.
  2. Wired routers. A wired router connects directly to computers through wired connections — a cable. They usually have a port that connects to the modem to communicate with the internet. Another port, or ports, allows the wired router to connect to computers and other devices for distributing information.

What to look for in a router

Most internet service providers (ISPs) provide you with a router and a modem — or a combination of both — for a subscription fee that can add up over time. These routers may not be the best for you, so you might consider buying one that better fits your needs and requirements. Before purchasing a router, here are a few things to look for:

Wi-Fi coverage

Wi-Fi signals within a home largely depend on the size of the house and the barriers that prevent signals from reaching their destinations. Some common obstacles that may block Wi-Fi signals are fireplaces, mirrors, and thick walls. Look for a router that can reach the far corners of your home. Also, look for one that has a mesh network to extend the Wi-Fi capabilities across the house.

Wi-Fi performance

Router technology has changed over time. Make sure you have a router that uses the latest technology and has updated firmware. MU-MIMO is one such new technology. It stands for multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output technology and allows Wi-Fi routers to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. This ultimately decreases the wait time and improves network speed.

Wi-Fi security

Cybercriminals can penetrate your home network and install malware and viruses on your devices. They work with an arsenal of tools to gain access to your personal and financial information, and less secured routers can allow them to explore further vulnerabilities. Having a router that provides network-level protection could help protect against cyberattacks at the port of entry. Look for a router with built-in security features, like automatic updates, device quarantine, and signed firmware updates.

Wi-Fi controls

Routers have become a significant part of the connected home. Make sure you buy a router that can be controlled easily. The latest routers are easy to install and use. Some even come with user-friendly apps that help you with guest networks, parental controls, user time limits, and network management.

Whether you are setting up a new router in your home or upgrading an existing one, make sure you get to know all the workings of your new router and if it is designed to meet your needs.

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