The network basically powers our online life – it scales from social media to entertainment and to smart devices. At the core of the network lies the router, working behind the scenes to connect all the networking devices. While your internet service provider (ISP) ultimately determines your speed and bandwidth ceilings, your router can make or break your network. So selecting a suitable router among the myriads of variants is of significant importance.
A router is the major building block of computing networks, which is seeing broad adoption in homes, offices and enterprises. Routers make the Internet work by forwarding data using a unified addressing system. They can send information to anywhere that has an IP address. There are lots of routers available on the market with fancy function and feature sets, making it a challenge to select the right one. If you're feeling overwhelmed, this guide will help you learn the basic principles of routers. You’ll learn what routers are, what they do, why you should get a router and how to shop for one.
What Is a Router in Networking?
A router is the glue that holds together all your devices in a network, so they can share a single Internet connection. It connects computers, printers and other end devices to one another through Ethernet cables or a wireless connection. After connecting a router to the modem, you're then able to share that Internet connection among all of the devices in your network. Moreover, a router also serves as the front line of security, protecting your computer system and information from any intrusion and attack.
Most routers are designed with four Ethernet ports, allowing you to plug in four devices and have them communicate via the switching function. Users demand more than four connections can either upgrading to a router with larger port count (up to 8 ports) or deploying a dedicated switch. Note that routers often contain the firmware that should be updated as released by the router manufacturer.
How Does a Router Work?
At the most basic level, a router deals with network traffic. It connects a modem to other network devices to enable communication between them and the Internet. In this way, router directs incoming and outgoing internet traffic on that network in the fastest and most efficient way. A router usually connects to the modem via the “Internet” or “WAN” port over a network cable, then again via a network cable, to multiple network devices. Each router has a unique (external) IP address to receive data packages from servers worldwide, and every device on your network also gets a unique MAC address. When you try to access information online, your router maintains a table to keep track of which device requested information from where.
Types of Routers
Routers come into various types for using in different scenarios. Here we mainly introduce three types of routers: business network router, broadband router and VPN router.
Business Network Routers
Business network routers are used to manage many terabits of data flowing through and between Internet Service Provider (ISP) networks. They are the largest and most powerful network routers from the Internet backbone.
Home Broadband Routers
Broadband router refers to any home wired or wireless router that used for sharing a broadband Internet connection. Broadband routers can handle several different kinds of tasks, for example, it can be used to connect two different computers or to connect two devices to the Internet. Home networks use broadband routers to connect computers to each other and to the Internet. The popular Voice over IP (VoIP) technology also demands a broadband router to connect the Internet and your phone.
VPN router can be seen as a normal Gigabit router that has VPN client software installed on it. Every device that connects to the VPN router is therefore protected by VPN. A VPN network router can protect multiple devices (computers, tablets, smartphones and etc) from one source, on one connection. It has become a new favorite for homes and businesses if you need extra protection on privacy or to access region-restricted websites.
The following are descriptions of VPN routers provided by FS.COM.
Understanding the Parameters to Choose the Right Router
The chart above lists several important parameters of a router, including Central Processing Unit (CPU), flash memory, RAM, network interfaces and console. Let’s see how they affect the performance of a router.
Central Processing Unit (CPU): CPU is a processor that runs special software called an "operating system" (OS). The operating system manages the router's components and provides all the logical networking functions. Generally, a faster processor and more cores are better. FS.COM ER-6 VPN router is built with Intel Atom D525 dual core processor for more stable and faster performance.
Flash Memory: It is where the operating system is stored, much resembling the hard disk drive in your computer. Flash memory retains content when router is powered down or restarted. A router with larger flash memory and RAM capacity allows you to grow and extend your network more easily.
RAM: RAM on a router add more room to prevent network congestion and improve throughput. It is also used for caching ARP tables and other data to speed up the process of forwarding of packets. Routers that have more RAM allows for more throughput as well. The ER-5 and ER-6 VPN routers have 4Gbit and 2Gbit RAM respectively, which should be more than capable for the average homes or small businesses.
Network Interfaces: Interfaces on a router provide network connectivity to the router. A router typically has console ports for managing the router, and Ethernet ports for LAN and WAN connectivity.
Power Consumption: Routers don’t consume a lot of power - roughly 2 to 20 watts. You have to know the wattage of your specific router so it will not exceed your power budget.
Understanding your router is merely the first step in setting up a network, but it's an important one. Routers has become mainstream consumer devices when networks began to accumulate multiple computers and need to enable Internet connection among them. As we’ve gone through the basics information and parameter analysis of routers, hope it may give you more confidence when choosing the right type of routers.