What is a router?

A router enables wired and wireless devices to communicate with each other, and to the Internet through a modem.

The Internet is essential to more than just our computers in the digital age. With the Internet, our smart TVs stream videos directly from platforms like Netflix, our game consoles download the newest titles, and our connected home devices enable us to remotely adjust our thermostat, our lighting, and more. Our devices can connect to the Internet or to each other, thanks to a small box that sits in our homes, offices, eateries, shopping malls, and airports called a router.

What is a router and what does it do?

In layman’s terms, a router helps wired and wireless devices communicate. For example, your computer can tell your printer to print your documents or download your media from your digital camera without an Internet connection, thanks to a router. When the router is connected to a modem, it enables other devices in the network connect to the Internet through this device by directing network packets between them.

Technically speaking, routers route traffic to the IP addresses of devices using network packets carrying files, communications, packet identifiers, source IP addresses, destination IP addresses, and more, in a packet-switched network (PSN). Routers typically operate in a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN). While a LAN is a group of computers over a small area like your house, school, or café, a WAN is a group of systems over a larger area, like a network of ATMs in a province. WANs typically consist of several LANs and require many routers.

What is a network packet?

Network packets are slices of data sent over a packet-switched network like the Internet, a LAN, or a WAN, in a. Computers receive data in packets because packets are easier to transfer, manage, and reassemble, than complete data at once. In a wireless network, a router functions as a traffic officer, routing the groupings of data to the right devices based on their IP addresses.  

What is the difference between a router and a modem?

While your modem connects your home to the Internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP), your router allows devices in your network to connect to each other and use the Internet connection provided by the modem. You might think that routers and modems are the same because router-modem combos are very popular. However, these are just 2-in-1 devices that include routers and modems in the same box.

Is a router and WiFi the same?

A router and WiFi are not the same things. A router is a networking device, while WiFi is wireless networking technology. A router uses its antennas to create and manage a WiFi network to allow other wireless-ready devices to communicate or potentially connect to the Internet.

Do I need a router for WiFi?

You don’t need a router to connect to a WiFi connection, but you may need a router to share an internet connection. For example, you don’t need a router to connect to a WiFi connection from a wireless-ready device like a laptop, smartphone, or smart thermostat. However, a router is handy if you want to share your modem’s Internet connection in a WiFi network.

How do I make my router faster?

A router is a computer, and like any computer, processes can get clogged in its memory. Restart your router periodically to clear its cache and keep it running optimally. Rebooting your modem-router combo device may also help resolve IP address conflicts, firmware bugs or fix overheating issues.  

In addition to restarting your router, consider moving it to a more central location of the house. Walls, furniture, and other obstacles, or radio signals from other devices, can degrade your WiFi connection. A WiFi booster can also help enhance your router’s wireless signal.

You may need to dig deeper if restarting or repositioning your router doesn’t help. Try updating the firmware for performance upgrades. Or change your WiFi password to prevent others from siphoning your connection.

How do I make my router more secure?

Update your router

Downloading the latest patch for your router can plug vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit. For example, a patch for Realtek-based routers can protect users from a vicious Mirai botnet. A botnet can slow your Internet connection and hijack your resources for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Replace your router

Replacing old out of date routers can significantly improve your network security. You don’t have to look much further than some Cisco Small Business routers for devices that allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code. Look for a router with baked-in antivirus, parental controls, built-in DoS protection, double firewall capacity, and the highest WPA encryption for top router security.

Use security tools

Use security tools like your firewalls and a private VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your network. Change your default network name to prevent threat actors from recognizing your router and potential vulnerabilities. Finally, change the default username and password for your network to more sophisticated options.

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