What is a Router?

what is a router

What is a Router?

When you think, router, you probably think ‘That’s the device I connect my laptop or iPhone to when I’m at home!” You wouldn’t be wrong. A router can be the wired or wireless connection you make to the outside world. If your more curious on a more technical explanation, here it is on what is a router?

A router is a hardware that allows connections to and between Wide Area Networks. It commonly uses protocols such as point to point, BGP, OSPF and more. Routing protocols allows an efficient way for Internet Protocol data information to travel a network. This effectively enables modern communication to a broader network and what is commonly known as the internet.

You’ll know your home equipment is a router if it direct plugs into a line outside of your house that your Internet Service Provider uses. That device isn’t the only form of a router, there a mobile hotspots and enterprise routers as well. This is when it starts to get a bit more curious.

The Amazing World of Routers

Routers come in all shapes and sizes. The one for your house can fit inside a backpack. There are also some routers, that require two people to carry safely. And then there are also mobile hotspots which can be considered a router.

The router for your home is probably the most fun in the amazing world of routers. Largely because you can hook up an Xbox or Apple TV on it. Or whatever else you want, an IoT microwave if you want to be creative.

Your in control of your home router, and the amount of traffic that goes through it is pretty limited since it’s just you and whoever is in your house is using it. But if you decided to live with more people. Let’s say, you decide to get a 1000 roommates, that router is not going to work for everybody’s internet needs.

For a larger organization, a home router doesn’t just support the required bandwidth, but also the security complexity. This is why there is a different class of routers for the enterprise. Running an organization that manages millions, billions or even trillions of dollars, will require complex security that a home router just doesn’t provide. Enterprise routers can solve this solution by having better hardware and software.

So while home routers gives you the most fun, enterprise routers allow big organisations to run safely and effectively. 

Enterprise Routers

Within the amazing world of enterprise routers, are another level of categorization. They are based on purpose. One type of router can be for Internet Service Providers and another for a Fortune 500. There’s also everything in between.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of types of enterprise routers:

  • Edge Router
  • Distribution Router
  • Wireless Router
  • Core Router

Each type of router has a function that is unique to a need of an organization. Even the size of an organization may determine what kinds of routers are required. The idea is that with each type of router, data flows in a more efficient way.

The key for all enterprise routers is manageability. It allows them to be configured by an administrator to tune into the business needs. Take for instance a wireless router. Knowing how strong a signal is and how many wireless routers should spread along a certain area can determine the smoothness of people using it while in motion. If you’re on a mobile VOIP call in one part of the hallway, and walk to the other side, the router admins want to make sure that the call remains smooth and undropped with proper wireless router placement.

There are more layers of abstraction involved with other routers as well. This includes access control lists, that permits certain traffic while blocking others. I name these just to show that each router can be customized to a high degree of specificity. 

Hobby Router

You can see protocols of enterprise routers in play with home routers as well. Wireless routers are a great one to start out with. From there controlling services like QoS or creating guest networks is possible.

As a network technology professional, I started kicking around router technologies as a hobby. This allowed me to understand the bigger picture of what was going on with enterprise level technologies. I would highly suggest using virtual images on GNS3. But having actual hardware is a nice way to get started as well.

Related Questions

What is a WiFi Router?

A WiFi router allows devices to connect to the local area network without wires. In turn, the local area network becomes a medium in which the attached device can talk to to the internet. The WiFi portion is short for Wireless Fidelity, this is the technology which devices can connect to without a physical cable; the router is the additional functionality that allows the local area network to communicate to the outside world.

Why is a router needed?

A router is needed if your local network requires access to the internet or to the wide area network. It has specific protocols that are common with Internet Service Providers. It is typical to connect with an Internet Service Provider to get into the internet, but the prerequisites is to have proper hardware like a router.

Does a router give you WiFi?

Routers give you access to the internet. Home routers and small businesses may have WiFi technology built into the router. Though, very large enterprises have routers that usually separate the WiFi technology. These are known as access points. If a router does not come with a built in wireless technology, it is possible to add this feature by getting a WiFi router and connecting this to the router’s ethernet port. The WiFi router will broker the internet to the end user devices that connect to this wireless device.

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