When setting up a typical computer network
, two important devices that allow for network connection are the modem and router. For those that are newer to computer networking, distinguishing between these two devices can be difficult, especially as they can either be separate or combined devices. As everyday businesses and many day to day activities now greatly depend upon functioning networks, understanding these two devices and their capabilities can be very helpful.
What is a Modem?
The name “modem” is a portmanteau of “modulator-demodulator”, describing the functions that a modem provides for a computer network. In simpler terms, the modem is used as a medium that either encodes or decodes information that it sends and receives from other devices. While the data is on a computer, it is stored in a digital format for use. When sending information over a network, that digital format is transformed into an analog wave and sent over phone or cable lines.
There are various types of modems, and these types can affect the method in which data is transferred and a network connection is established. The cable modem
connects to a network via a coaxial cable that is tightened to the back of the device. The other end of the coaxial cable may be connected to a wall panel if present, or to the back of the cable box. With current technology standards, the cable modem is considered to be the fastest option with “high speed internet” capabilities. DSL is another form of modem, allowing for connection with a cable. DSL connections work through the phone line of a network infrastructure. Similar to DSL, dial-up modems also use the phone line to establish a connection to the internet service provider (ISP). Unlike DSL, however, dial-up internet connection cannot be established while a phone is being used if there is only one line. Dial-up is also the oldest form of internet connection, and it provides slower network connections as compared to the other two options.
What is a Router?
While modems encode and decode information for use, the router
connects networks and directs traffic in between them. A network consists of the internet connection and a private local network. Devices communicate to each other over the private local network, and the router bridges the connection from the local network to the internet connection. Routers also allow for establishing a Wi-Fi network, providing an access point for wireless connection of devices to the internet. Finally, routers can provide protection to devices that connect to the internet, controlling the traffic and devices that can connect to the local network.
For some connections, such as a single computer on a network, a router might not be needed. Nevertheless, they are recommended for multiple devices, as well as general business and home networking. Modems and routers may be purchased as two separate devices, connecting to each other through cabling. In recent years, some ISPs have begun offering devices that combine the router and modem into a single unit. If VOIP is a need for your project, ISPs may also have router/modem combined units that also have phone interfaces.
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