All About Broadband/ICS Routers

What Is a Router? All About Broadband/ICS Routers -
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All About Broadband/ICS Routers
Last updated August 28, 2009
A router is a device that forwards data packets along
networks. A router is connected to at least two networks,
commonly two LANs or WANs or a LAN and its ISP's network.
Routers are located at gateways, the places where two or
more networks connect, and are the critical device that keeps
data flowing between networks and keeps the networks
connected to the Internet.
When data is sent between locations on one network or from
one network to a second network the data is always seen and
directed to the correct location by the router. The router
accomplishes this by using headers and forwarding tables to
determine the best path for forwarding the data packets, and
they also use protocols such as ICMP to communicate with
each other and configure the best route between any two
The Internet itself is a global network connecting millions of
computers and smaller networks — so you can see how
crucial the role of a router is to our way of communicating and
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services industry.
For most home users, they may want to set-up a LAN (local
Area Network) or WLAN (wireless LAN) and connect all
computers to the Internet without having to pay a full
broadband subscription service to their ISP for each computer
on the network. In many instances, an ISP will allow you to
use a router and connect multiple computers to a single
Internet connection and pay a nominal fee for each additional
computer sharing the connection. This is when home users
will want to look at smaller routers, often called broadband
routers that enable two or more computers to share an
Internet connection. Within a business or organization, you
may need to connect multiple computers to the Internet, but
also want to connect multiple private networks — and these
are the types of functions a router is designed for.
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Not all routers are created equal since their job will differ slightly from network to network.
Additionally, you may look at a piece of hardware and not even realize it is a router. What
defines a router is not its shape, color, size or manufacturer, but its job function of routing
data packets between computers. A cable modem which routes data between your PC and
your ISP can be considered a router. In its most basic form, a router could simply be one of
two computers running the Windows 98 (or higher) operating system connected together
using ICS (Internet Connection Sharing). In this scenario, the computer that is connected to
the Internet is acting as the router for the second computer to obtain its Internet connection.
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Going a step up from ICS, we have a category of hardware routers that are used to perform
the same basic task as ICS, albeit with more features and functions. Often called broadband
or Internet connection sharing routers, these routers allow you to share one Internet
connection between multiple computers.
What Is a Router? All About Broadband/ICS Routers -
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Broadband or ICS routers will look a bit different depending on the manufacturer or brand,
but wired routers are generally a small box-shaped hardware device with ports on the
front or back into which you plug each computer, along with a port to plug in your
broadband modem. These connection ports allow the router to do its job of routing the
data packets between each of the the computers and the data going to and from the
Depending on the type of modem and Internet connection you have, you could also
choose a router with phone or fax machine ports. A wired Ethernet broadband router will
typically have a built-in Ethernet switch to allow for expansion. These routers also support
NAT (network address translation), which allows all of your computers to share a single IP
address on the Internet. Internet connection sharing routers will also provide users with
much needed features such as an SPI firewall or serve as a a DHCP Server.
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Wired and Wireless Routers
Wireless broadband routers look much the same as a wired router, with the obvious
exception of the antenna on top, and the lack of cable running from the PCs to the router
when it is all set up. Creating a wireless network adds a bit more security concerns as
opposed to wired networks, but wireless broadband routers do have extra levels of
embedded security.
Along with the features found in wired routers, wireless routers also provide features
relevant to wireless security such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and wireless MAC
address filtering. Additionally, most wireless routers can be configured for "invisible mode"
so that your wireless network cannot be scanned by outside wireless clients. Wireless
routers will often include ports for Ethernet connections as well. For those unfamiliar with
WiFi and how it works, it is important to note that choosing a wireless router may mean
you need to beef up your Wi-Fi knowledge-base. After a wireless network is established,
you may possibly need to spend more time on monitoring and security than one would
with a wired LAN.
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Wired and wireless routers and the resulting network can claim pros and cons over each
other, but they are somewhat equal overall in terms of function and performance. Both
wired and wireless routers have high reliability and reasonably good security (without
adding additional products). However —and this bears repeating — as we mentioned you
may need to invest time in learning more about wireless security. Generally, going wired
will be cheaper overall, but setting up the router and cabling in the computers is a bit more
difficult than setting up the wireless network. Of course, mobility on a wired system is very
limited while wireless offers outstanding mobility features.
Are Routers Expensive?
Below is a sample price comparison of routers and expected features as well as current
pricing in U.S. dollars from online vendors found through PriceWatch in August 2009.
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Draft-N 802.11N
PORTS Manufacturer Description / Features
802.11g router offers wired and wireless
connections. Up to 54 Mbps of wireless
throughput. Four RJ-45 Ethernet ports
allow for wired connections to the
network. Includes a double firewall, WPA
and 128-bit WEP encryption
Internet-sharing Router with 4-port switch
and Wireless Access Point. Much faster
than Wireless-G when connected to
Wireless-N, but also works great with
Wireless-G and -B devices
Simply connect the Linksys BEF-SR81
Wireless Router 8 Port 10/100 Switch to
your DSL or Cable Modem and all the
computers in your home or office can
share the Internet all at the same time.
What Is a Router? All About Broadband/ICS Routers -
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Today you can purchase a basic sub $90 broadband router that will enable you to share
your broadband Internet connection with multiple computers in your home or small office.
Before buying a router, however, you need to take into consideration the type of Internet
connect you have, and how many ports you will need for individual computers, and of
course, make the choice between wired or wireless. It is always a good idea to purchase a
router with extra ports in case you need to connect additional computers at a later date.
You can also decide if your broadband router will be providing your PC security or if you're
going to purchase a separate hardware firewall for protection. If you are thinking of
purchasing a firewall in addition to a broadband router, you may want to check out our
recent article on software and hardware firewalls.
Network research firm Dell'Oro Group
predicts that worldwide revenue from
routers will reach $10 billion by 2009, up
from a forecast of about $7.1 billion for
2004. [Source]
Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a
decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia.
You can tweet her online @AuroraGG
Last updated August 28, 2009
Hardware Central: Ultimate Guide to Networking: Part One — Bridges, Routers, and Switches
Bridges and routers are devices used for linking different LANs or LAN segments together. There are
many companies that have LANs at various offices across the world. Routers were originally developed
to allow connection of remote LANs across a wide area network (WAN).
Webopedia Guides
Use this Guide section to find articles, references, term definitions and other information on popular
computer and Internet technologies.
Wireless Security Blackpaper
While wireless networks have seen widespread adoption in the home user markets, widely reported and
easily exploited holes in the standard security system have stunted wireless' deployment rate in
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Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router
A step-by-step guide (with pictures) to setting up a Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router.
ZoneLabs: How to Set-up a Home network (PDF)
An excellent guide for those considering a home network.
Understanding WLAN Routers
This Small Business Computing article discusses some of the many benefits to using wireless local
area network routers.
Understanding IP Addressing
From Webopedia's Did You Know Section - Every computer that communicates over the Internet is
assigned an IP address that uniquely identifies the device and distinguishes it from other computers on
the Internet.
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Do you have an interesting piece of computer-related trivia that you would like us to explore?
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What Is a Router? All About Broadband/ICS Routers -
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