A modem is a device that translates computer signals from one form to another, usually so they can be sent to and received from the internet. There are different types of modems for different networks, from dial-up modems that use traditional telephone lines to modems for newer cable, satellite, cellular and fiber optic networks. The main benefit of a modem is that it allows you and your devices to access the internet and communicate with the outside world. The downside is that a modem can allow viruses and hackers to enter your network.
Types of Modem Technology
The word "modem" is an abbreviated form of modulator-demodulator. Technically speaking, that means a modem takes a signal from a computer or another device and translates it into a form that can go out over another network.
Common types of modems include cellular modems found in phones and cellular access hotspots, cable modems used to send internet data over cable TV lines, dial-up modems used to send data over telephone lines and satellite modems often used in remote areas where wired connections aren't available.
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Different types of networks have different advantages and disadvantages. For example, dial-up networking is generally slow, but one of the advantages of dial-up technology is that it's available anywhere there's a phone line, even if there are no cable, digital lines or fiber optic connections around.
Choosing a Modem
Usually, you must use a modem that is compatible with your internet service provider's network. Many internet providers rent a modem to you, which is advantageous if you're not interested in picking your own or having to deal with any maintenance issues.
If you prefer to choose your modem, you typically want to get one that supports the fastest network speeds your ISP can provide. You may also want to look for one with a good warranty or one that doubles as a wireless router.
A wireless router sets up a Wi-Fi network in your home so devices can be connected to the internet and each other without being wired into the router or the modem. Some wireless routers are standalone devices that plug into a modem, while others are combined units that include modem functionality.
Some models of standalone routers are faster or more reliable than those built into modems.
Risks With Modems
One potential disadvantage of having a modem connected to the internet is that it can leave you vulnerable to malware and hackers gaining access to your devices.
For this reason, many routers and modems include built-in firewalls that restrict outside access to your network. You can also run security software on your devices to keep them safe.