If you have some basic knowledge of the internet, you know that it’s an interconnected web of computers and servers. Sounds simple right?
But it’s a somewhat complicated process on how it all works, which brings us to today's topic, routers. More specifically, what is a router and how is it used for surfing, streaming and all that internet goodness?
What is a Router And What is it Used for?
A router is computing hardware that allows communication between various interconnected networks. The connection isn’t like how you or I would communicate but through the transmission of what is called “data packets.”
Data packets are forms of formatted data that use bandwidth as a medium between two devices that are virtually speaking to each other.
Routers have their own processors, meaning they are little computers that don’t require displays or keyboards but function by using a proprietary operating system that delegates the applications and programs the device will need to do.
For example, the router you use for a home network is called an Internet Protocol router, which connects the computers in your house to the internet.
Before Wi-Fi, your router would connect to the internet with ethernet and coaxial cables, but wireless connectivity has become the standard, you still need a hardwired connection to your device to connect to the internet, but you don’t have to hardwire your computer to the internet anymore.
Routers don’t just traffic your computer to a more extensive network, they focus on efficiency but finding the most direct and quickest routes to ensure you have the fastest internet connection possible. Routers also act as a firewall between your personal data and the ether of the internet, giving you an added layer of protection against malicious programs and hacks.
Do I Need a Router If I Already Have a Modem?
It entirely depends on a few factors. A modem is a hardware that connects you to your internet service provider (for example a cable company), so you can use the internet. Say you only have one device to connect to the internet, you can get away with using just a modem.
Now, if you’re like most of us and have multiple devices that require internet connectivity like gaming consoles, computers, tablets, etc., you’ll need a router to connect all of them to the internet at once.
Routers also come in handy if you have multiple people in your household. I can imagine those you live with getting pretty angry if you’re hogging the internet connection if you’re connecting to the internet strictly with a modem, as I said in the previous paragraph, devices enable multiple devices to connect to the internet simultaneously.
Say you want Wi-Fi connectivity in your home, running with just a modem won’t work either, this is where our simple router comes into play once again. Since modems can only connect one device, routers are needed to broadcast wireless connections.
Nowadays, there are combinations of modem/routers all bundled into one device. Most of the time your internet service provider will supply you with a modem/router combo that has one ethernet port or coax adapter that you just have to plug in, and it will handle connecting directly to the internet AND broadcast wireless internet throughout your home.
You can add an extra router to your home network to give it a significant speed boost depending on how large your home is and how far you’ll connecting devices to the device itself.
What is the Best Wireless Router to Buy?
I mentioned earlier that cable companies supply wireless router and modem combinations, but I personally wouldn’t recommend relying on them.
For starters, you will have to pay a monthly rental fee for your equipment. You could buy your own hardware and pay the cost up front which would equal a few months of your rental fees.
Secondly, the equipment you’d rent is or soon will be outdated to new bandwidth connection speeds. Check the bandwidth speeds of your area to determine what type of modem will optimize your internet connections, from there is when you’ll want to select the type of router will be best for your needs.
“Which router is best” is an interesting question in my opinion because depending on your personal needs, there are specialized devices for a specific task.
A quality router is your central hub of connectivity for multiple devices. I know people who think their old routers will accommodate more advanced connection speeds that ISPs often offer. It’s not ignorance, just a lack of education. Most old gear will be maxed out running at moderate bandwidth speeds, thus sapping upload and download speeds.
Say you do a lot of online gaming and stream 4K resolution video, a router such as the ASUS AC1900 Dual-band Gigabit Wireless Router won’t break the bank but will get the job done.
If money is no object and you want the most powerful router with teeth, the Linksys WRT1900ACSDual-Band Router offer two separate super high-speed internet connection bands and auto-updated firmware to ensure your network security is always up to par.
How Do I Set Up a New Router?
To get started, choose a location in an open area of your home where you can work on it comfortably.
It doesn’t have to be a fixed location; sometimes you may have to tweak the positioning of the router for the signal to reach all areas of your home.
Plug in the power source and press the power button.
- If you’re using a standalone router, hook it up to your modem in the jack marked “WAN, Internet In, or Uplink.”
- Some modems use ethernet cables, but more often than not, modern hardware will use USB cables.
- Make sure the cords are actually plugged in, I once was stumped for three hours because of a loose wire.
- Reset your modem and make sure your device syncs with it.
- Connect your router to a single CPU. During initial set up, it's not wise to attempt a wireless connection since the Wi-Fi configurations are set up at this stage, and you don’t want to risk dropped or unstable network connections.
- After you have the wireless configurations set up, you can unhook the network cable and use your wireless connection.
- While you’re connected to the internet, open a web browser and log into your routers admin console.
- The login information differs with each router so check your device's manual for the web address and first-time login in username and password.
- Once you’re logged in, change the username and password to something unique for added security.
- Finally, open a devices Wi-Fi settings and search for the unique name you assigned to your device while you were setting it up.
- Check your connection strength in all areas you’ll be using the internet and make sure you have a good connection throughout your home.
If everything is all well and good and you have a secure connection, pat yourself on the back because you just set up your router and you’re good to go! I hope we answered your question regarding “what is a router” and we hope to see you again.