What Exactly IS A Router?

Lately, we have had lots of questions about setting up routers. In responding to the questions, I’ve discovered there is some confusion about how to use a router and the benefits of doing so, as well as the difference between a router and a modem. Let me explain.

A router lets multiple users share a connection to the Internet. To connect to the Internet, you must have a public IP address. Much like a house, each address must be different. A router connects to your modem using a single public address, generally supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The router then provides a local IP address to each device connected to it, allowing Internet access for each device. A router typically has around 4 Ethernet ports for your wired connections. If the router is a wireless router, you can also connect multiple wireless devices. This allows you to connect all the devices in your house but use only the one public address. This also allows for easy sharing between devices connected to the router.

Notice the difference in my two addresses in this image. The public address (blanked out for security) is assigned by my ISP and is what is seen by the public. This allows me to connect to the Internet. If I went to another computer at Worldstart and checked for their public IP address, they would show the same one. The local IP address is what the router assigned my computer. These would be different for each computer connected to the local network. You can check your public IP address at What is My IP if you ever wanted to know.

A router also provides more security. Since a router assigns local, or private, IP addresses, when your devices access the Internet, people outside your network only see the public address. This keeps your local address less visible to anyone else. A router also serves as a hardware firewall, which provides a first line of defense against attacks from outside. Some routers offer even more security with built in software firewalls and other security features that may not be provided otherwise, such as the ability to set up a VPN and setting parental controls.

One thing that seems to be confusing many people is that a router is NOT the same as a modem. A router by itself does not provide any sort of Internet connection. Unless the router specifically says it is a modem and a router, you would need a modem to provide the Internet connection. A router alone cannot replace the modem supplied by your ISP. Some modems supplied by an ISP are a modem and router combined.

Many of the questions came from people tired of the rental fee to use their ISP’s modem. You can purchase a stand alone cable/DSL modem if this is your concern. They tend to run around $70 and up on a quick search, but the price can vary. If you want a decent rated one, you likely need to spend a little more. Before buying, you would want to be certain that it would be compatible with your ISP. Remember, cable modems and DSL modems are two different things so be certain to do your research carefully if you do decide to purchase your own.

– Audra

3 thoughts on “What Exactly IS A Router?

  1. No argument with any of the above. I’m relatively new to using a router myself; never had any need for one ’til I bought a Kindle E-Reader with its WiFi interface. Successfully setting up my Belkin DB-450 gave me a WiFi hotspot in my house that my E-Reader, along with my recently-obtained-as-a-gift Kindle Fire HD works with perfectly, including when my desktop PC is shut down. Eventually I’ll also hook up a ROKU box, but that will be later on this summer.

  2. Hi Audra,

    I appreciate your clarifying that Cable Modem & DSL Modem are different! Thanks for a detailed reply!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.