How Does a Router Work?

By Tiesha Whatley

What is a Router?

With wireless Internet connections becoming more and more desirable, the router is almost a household word. Many consumers don't really understand what a router does or everything it is used for. All they know is that it allows them to browse the Internet anywhere in their home without all the messy cords. This explanation is only partially correct; in actuality, a router is the technology behind all of the capability of the Internet.A router is a piece of hardware used to route and forward information from one location to another. In companies and large corporations, a central computer system acts as a router to connect all of the company's computers to one network. This allows group participation and collaboration on large projects or just to connect all of the company's resources at one central location. It also aids in reliable communication between employees working on different floors in the building or in different countries.For the Internet, a router allows the sending and receiving of data quickly. Downloading and uploading web pages and files are also handled by a router. Consumers become more and more dependent on the Internet, but didn't know what made it possible to access their favorite sites to shop online, send email, or to run their online business.

Routing Emails

There are many fascinating things that happen behind the scenes when sending and receiving email. After a sender clicks the "send" button on her email client, a router gets that information and sends it to the desired location using the different parts of the email address. Because routers can communicate with one another no matter what network it is on, messages are able to be sent to any email address in the world.

Directing Traffic

It is a router's job to direct email and web traffic. To do this it uses the configuration table to decipher where they should go. A configuration table is the data needed for transmission. The data included in the configuration table is the group of addresses for each connection, the connections' priority order and the traffic rules for regular and special connections. Depending on the size of the router and network, the size of the configuration table varies. So, using the information from the configuration table, the router makes sure the data packets go to the correct location in a timely and accurate manner.

Transmitting Packets

The Internet is many networks working together to make up one massive network. For information to move in and between networks it is sent in data packets. The system that data travels through is called a "packet-switching network." To make sure that the data is able to travel through the networks, it is broken down into smaller packets before being sent. A wrapper is placed around each packet to keep the group together so they end up in the same and correct location. The addresses of the sender and receiver, plus the packet's predefined place in the collection, are the information that is contained in the wrapper. The router uses this information to deliver the packets. Directing traffic and transmitting packets are the router's main responsibilities.