How Routers Work

How Routers Work

Routers play a central role in making every data transfer transaction possible. Here is an explanation of its working mechanism, in a nutshell.
The article which you are reading just now, was transported across a vast interconnected network of computers, which is the Internet. This web page is hosted on a remote server in USA. Its journey from the server to your computer, was made possible, because of a host of computer networking devices working in unison. To fully understand how data is accurately sent to millions of computers around the world, you need to understand how routers work.

What are Routers?

The Internet is not just a vast array of computers, connected to each other. There are a host of networking devices like the router, which control the data traffic between and within networks. A router is a networking device, that is designed to control data traffic between different computer networks. It primarily operates on the network layer (Layer 3) of the OSI model. Wireless routers, installed in homes, provide secure wireless Internet access and means to set up a home wireless network. There are various types of routers, which differ in their features, according to the scale of computing networks, which they handle.

Working Mechanism

To understand the working of routers, you need to understand how data is transported across the Internet. The method of transport is 'Packet Switching'. Every file or piece of data on the Internet, is not transported as a single entity. It is broken up into smaller packets and then labeled with sender's and recipient's addresses. Just like a post office package is sent across a network and then sorted at various nodes until it reaches your doorstep, data packages are sorted and directed across the Internet, in the same way. Routers are devices that connect multiple networks together and control what data is sent towards and away from any computer, in those networks.

Using what is known as a configuration table (that has information about connections and associated network addresses), it reads every data packet that it receives from a network and directs it through the right connection so that it reaches the right destination. The configuration table stored on a router, has information about the IP addresses of all computers in a network. It also has a set of priority rules for data transport.

It is an intelligent device which calculates the optimum path for the data packet to reach the right destination, in the shortest time. This calculation and determination of a path is made possible, after the router has evaluated the traffic load across networks. An optimum use of bandwidth and faster data transfer is made possible because of these devices.

Packet switching is made possible because of routers, which are analogous to post offices on a snail mail network. They also secure a computer network by providing data encryption.

Routers are silent backstage performers on the Internet, who ensure that data is directed precisely and reaches the right destinations, while also protecting networks from unauthorized access.
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