If you are new to computer networking, you need to 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.
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.