Despite the terms modem and router often being used interchangeably, they are different devices. Although they look similar and both provide access to the internet, they use different technologies and function differently. This blog will take a look at both modems and routers and provide some details to help differentiate the two.
A modem, or modular-demodulator, is a networking device that communicates with the internet through a connection provided by your internet service provider (ISP). Depending on the type of internet you have, your modem will either connect to the internet via telephone lines or cable lines. The modem is used to convert the signals into the relevant language needed for information to travel through the telephone or cable line.
There are three types of modems: Cable, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and Dial-Up. Cable modems use coaxial cables to connect the internet. One end of the cable connects to the back of the modem, while the other connects to the wall or cable box. DSL modems connect to the internet through a phone line. One end of the phone cable connects to the phone port on the wall, and the other connects to the DSL port on the modem. With DSL, you can talk on the phone and access the internet at the same time. Dial-up modems also use phone lines to access the internet, but are slower than other modems and do not allow for simultaneous use of the phone and internet.
A router is commonly recognized as the device that provides your WiFi. However, they do much more than this. A router is a small box that directs traffic between connected devices, whether wired or wireless, within your local area network and the internet. The router’s job is to manage the incoming and outgoing data and ‘route’ it to the correct place. Routers also provide a network of communication between all of the devices in your home. For instance, if you have a computer and a printer connected to the same router, you can use the printer without having to physically connect to it.
Wireless routers commonly use an ethernet cord to connect to the internet or WAN (wide-area network) port on the back of a modem. Once the router is connected, you can connect devices to the WiFi network, or use the ethernet cables to wire your devices to the router itself. The antennas on the router make WiFi possible, as they broadcast radio waves to communicate with the wireless adapters within your connected devices. There are also additional ports on the rear of the router if you prefer a wired connection for your devices. Routers also act as a firewall between the internet and your VPN (virtual private network). When the router receives data, it reads it and allows safe information to enter your VPN while blocking any unsafe information.
Perhaps the most important role of a router is to assign IP addresses to any device connected to it. The purpose of an IP address is to establish a location on the internet to provide devices with a means to locate one another when transmitting information. An IP address ensures that the data will not be lost or sent to the incorrect device. There are two types of IP address: public and private. The public IP address is used by routers and devices connected to the modem, while the private IP is exclusive and known only by your router and home devices. Routers feature both a public and private IP address. When a device requests data, it is directed to the private IP. The router then uses its public IP to share the request with the internet, which fulfills the request and returns the data to the public IP. The information is then relayed from the public to the private IP, so your private IP is never directly exposed to the internet.
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