Your Personal Internet “Traffic Cop” Routers: The What, Why and How
For most of us, long gone are the days of slow, “dial-up” telephone modem based Internet connections. Many younger Internet users today, in fact, have never even experienced anything other than high-speed, broadband Internet. This long sought after “luxury” is now considered a “necessity” and without high-speed Internet access, many of us would have a difficult time communicating. The fact that households and offices share high-speed Internet today is the direct result of a little electronic device known as a “Router”. Acting as a “Traffic Cop” for all inbound and outbound digital data network traffic, your router serves to seamlessly manage all of the data sent and received through your broadband modem. Through a subscription with your Internet provider, (or one you may “borrow” from one who has a subscription), you obtain a unique “public” IP address, which identifies your connection so that it can converse with other “devices” throughout the vast network we call the Internet. Similar to a telephone number, (but not that), that IP address is transmitted to and from your broadband modem so that it can send your data from your computer or Internet connected device out to and through your Internet provider, and in turn out to other Internet connected servers and devices. This is routinely all handled transparently through a network of switches and routing equipment using a structured Internet Protocol (ie. IP ). You can well imagine that a vast number of unique Public IP addresses are required so that all Internet connected devices can communicate with each other. Routers help to make this process possible and manageable.
What is a Router and Why do we use them?
As referred to above, a router is like a “traffic cop”. It is a device that connects to or is often combined with a modem. It receives “packets” of data from connected devices, and sends them off to specific destinations. Often, routers are used in homes and offices to “translate” public IP addresses received from modems to “private” IP address that are assigned to devices connected to and considered “behind” the routers. Specific “ranges” of IP addresses are deemed Private and are not “publically” routable – so that when these “private” IP addresses are used, they can remain within the confines of your home or office and the “same” IP addresses can be utilized in other homes and offices behind their respective routers. This effectively multiplies the number of devices that can effectively be used on the Internet, by permitting them to share the “same” “Public” IP address subscribed to through the Internet provider. While each home and office gets assigned a unique “public” IP address, these “public” IP’s can be split into many “private” IP’s through a process called “Network Address Translation (ie. NAT) and the router is used for this purpose – to split and manage communication from each connected device. It is quite remarkable that this complex process continues over and over again, routinely without missing a beat. An additional benefit of using a router is the firewall protection provided. Attempts to directly access our “public” IP to get to our individually “router-connected devices” are effectively blocked as a result of the work the router does, and only when instructions are given to the router to allow such “public” contact to individual devices, will that happen. Routers are often used as a result as a “first-line” of defense for Internet Security.
How are Routers utilized and what are the best types to use?
We’ve briefly discussed what a router is and why we use them. How they are used varies depending upon the need. Today, Wireless Routers have become very popular as we don’t always enjoy being “tethered” to connections with wires. While wires often establish the initial connections to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) via a wired modem, wireless modem connections via cellular carriers are now very popular. Via wireless transmission, packets are sent and managed with the same concept as the wired transmissions previously described. One distinction is that while wired connections are limited to the physical “wire” locations strung between devices, wireless devices can be anywhere within range of the wireless broadcast. To protect communication, encryption techniques are often used and recommended to protect wireless connections to prevent those packets from being intercepted by unauthorized users. Wireless Fidelity (ie WiFi) connected users are often greeted with requests for “Wireless Passwords” and this is to help restrict access to only those who are permitted to “view” or access the devices and services on the respective network. Depending upon the range, number of users, and types of data being transmitted over a router – the best type, brand, and model to use will often be a result of an analysis of the unique circumstances. Often, to achieve coverage in a larger home or office facility, a combination of wireless access points are used in conjunction with a “base router” to achieve adequate radio strength and reach. For help setting up, securing and troubleshooting routers or for related questions, please be certain to “AskAvie™”.
This is 11th in a series of aSKaVIE articles devoted to your productivity, digital privacy and protection. In future articles, you can look forward to tips and tricks that you can use to make sense out of your digital investments as well as reviews of new and exciting things that will likely provide value to your home and business. I invite you to write me with your questions and feedback. We’ll also be helping and inspiring others by answering your questions and that’s what makes my job so much fun! So stay tuned. Please send your questions to TheRosyReport@askavie.com.