What Are Routers and Why Does My Business Need Them?

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: May 24, 2011

An office network is made up of several different components. There are the computers that the employees use to perform their work. There are the wired adapters for desktop machines and wireless adapters for laptop computers. One of the most important parts of a network, however, is a small object called the router.

The router is the device that processes and sends information across the network. It analyzes all the data packets that pass through, determines their online address, and sends them on to their destination. This often takes several steps as the data packets are passed from network device to network device.

It should be noted that a router isn’t the only mechanism that can perform this task. You could also purchase a hub or a network switch to serve as a waypoint for all the incoming and outgoing network traffic. What makes a router so useful are the additional functions that it can provide to a small business.

One of these is the ability to create a firewall. This is a type of protective barrier that prevents unauthorized people from accessing your office network. You simply program the firewall to allow or disallow users onto the network based on criteria like IP address or protocol. The firewall can also detect if an attempt is being made to access the network through a non-standard port.

This tends to be very important for a small business. If a hacker decides to target your network, they could download a virus to your system and corrupt all of your customer data. The firewall helps to protects against this and makes sure that the office network won’t go down at a vital time.

Routers also tend to handle internet traffic in a much more efficient manner than a network switch or a hub. Many of them have their own programming language, and they use this to communicate with other routers and improve the rate of data transfer. If your business needs a fast connection that doesn’t get bogged down on a consistent basis, a router is nearly essential.

Another benefit of having a router is the ability to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). This is where you make and receive phone calls over your internet connection. VoIP allows you to make long distance phone calls for free, and has access to special features like videoconferencing, caller identification, and call recording. This can help a small business save a great deal of money over time.

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