Router Vs. Gateway

Router Vs. Gateway

The comparison between a gateway and a router, presented in this article is aimed at clearing out the differences between these two networking devices.
If you are new to computer networking, there are many devices that you need to know about, to fully understand how the working of a network is made possible. Every wired and wireless networking system is designed to be self-sustaining and self-regulating. This self-manageability is made possible, due to working of various devices in a network, like a router and a gateway.

Let me firstly clear out a piece of linguistic confusion. Routers were known as 'gateways' in the early days, which may be the source of confusion between the two different computer networking devices. Although a router could be classified as a very special type of gateway, not all gateways are routers. In the next section, we will explore the actual difference between routers and gateways, according to function.

Difference Between a Router and a Gateway

Both routers and gateways are parts of large-scale computing networks, connected to the Internet. Both operate at various levels of the OSI model.

Basic Difference in Technology
Let us begin with the definition of a router. It is the networking device that integrates two or more networks together, while controlling the data traffic over the entire network. A wireless router on a home network, connected with a modem, provides wireless Internet access. The primary function of a router in a network is to ensure that data packets are sent to their right destinations or switched to the right addresses.

In computer networking terms, a router is a layer 3 (Network Layer) device that integrates logical subnets together, over the Internet. A router is known as a layer 3 gateway in technical terminology.

Broadly, a gateway is any connection point or node on a network that provides access to a larger one. So depending on what level of networking you are operating on, a gateway is different. For any home network connected to the Internet, the ISP server is the gateway to the Internet. That is why, a router integrating multiple networks together, acts as a gateway.

A proxy server, connected to the Internet, is a gateway for the connected network. A router with an integrated modem, that has a connection with the Internet, is also known as a gateway. A switch is on the lowest level of network hierarchy. It is only a network segment connector, compared to a router, which integrates networks and a gateway, to provide direct access to larger networks.

Features and Applications
A router or especially a wireless one is used to set up a home wireless network. It needs to be connected with a modem and configured to provide unplugged Internet access. A gateway is a computer server, firewall, or proxy server that is used as a connection point to the Internet or any bigger network. So if you want to set up a large office network and control the access rights of users, you need to install a computer server which acts as a gateway to the Internet.

To conclude, a gateway plays a much larger role in a computer networking system, compared to a router and serves as the entry point to a much larger network, while a router merely connects multiple networks together and controls the data traffic between them.