What a Network Router Does - dummies

By Dan Gookin

You may want to know how the router fits into your networking picture and how to deal with minor router despair. First, know that he heart in your computer network’s circulatory system is the router. Yes, you need a router. Especially when you plan to use a broadband modem, a router is a must-have item. Secondarily, it is good that others understand you when speaking. Here are some suggestions:

  • Router rhymes with “powder.”

  • Don’t say “rooter” unless you live in the United Kingdom.

  • In Australia or Canada, either pronunciation is acceptable: “rooter” or “router.”

If you have high-speed Internet or have had a small network installed at your home or office, you know you have a router, but don’t know what the router does or why it’s needed. It manages the local network traffic, sending bits and bytes between connected computers. It may direct traffic to a hard drive or printer.

On the other end, the router acts as your local network’s connection to the Internet. It presents all local network traffic to the Internet as a single front. It further provides defense against probing attacks from the Internet, mostly by ignoring them with a firewall.

Theoretically, you don’t need a router. You can hook up a PC directly to the broadband modem and be online. In this type of configuration, you’d need robust firewall software and Internet security software. Even so, the setup may not work because some broadband modems require a router to be present or else they cannot communicate. Regardless, though you may not need a router, you want one.

  • There are wired routers and wireless routers. You can also find combination wired/wireless routers.

  • Indeed, most wireless routers also sport a standard Ethernet cable connection.