Out of the plethora of devices that are used in wireless networking, a router and an access point have important roles to play. The confusion between these two devices arises because of one similarity in their functioning; they are both designed to provide Internet access.
Difference Between a Router and an Access Point
A wireless network is unplugged and the link between various computers and intermediary devices is established through radio signals. Let us see what are the roles played by wireless routers and access points, in this setting.
A router connects two or more computer networks together and controls the data traffic. It has an embedded operating system within, to intelligently control data traffic towards and from any network. It does more than providing Internet access to a computing network. It acts as a DHCP server, assigning dynamic IP addresses to connected computers.
They encrypt data transmitted over the wireless network to prevent hacking attacks. These devices usually transmit over dual band frequencies and provide wireless Internet access over a long range, enabled by their powerful transmitters.
They come with a built-in firewall, that reduces the vulnerability of your network to hacking. Another function is port forwarding, that lets you assign different Internet protocols to specific computers on networks.
While external networks only see the WAN IP address assigned to your wireless router, it assigns different IP addresses to connected computers, through a feature, known as network address translation (NAT). This masks the IP addresses from direct exposure and provides a higher level of security to your network.
An access point is a wireless receiver and transmitter, designed to provide computers in a network with Internet access. A wireless access point (WAP) is used in association with a router to provide wireless Internet access. It functions as a link between a router and devices connected in wireless networks.
Its prime function is that of a relay between the wireless or wired router and devices connected in the network. It may use a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection link. A wired router, plus an access point, connected together, make a wireless router. That's why, in wireless networks, using a router as an access point is a common feature.
Features and Uses
Even though wireless routers are an integration of routers and access points, individual points are still used in an industrial setting. They come with built-in security features like WAP2 security and firewalls. The best wireless routers are an integration of wired routers, Ethernet switches, and wireless access points.
Individually, an access point cannot be used to integrate networks. It functions only at the level of a local area network (LAN). On the other hand, a router functions at the level of a wide area network (WAN). To conclude, an access point acts purely as a radio link for Internet access, while a router provides connectivity between multiple networks.
A wireless router is certainly a superior device, compared to access points as they provide more advanced features to secure your wireless network, along with extra facilities.