In the internet technology world, there are several terms that confuse every user. You will hear a colleague asking, “Do I need a router if I have a modem?” This is because many do not know the work of a modem and a router in an internet connection.
In this article we will try to explore the functions of a router and a modem. We will also explain how in simple terms to choose a router and a modem that will befit your day to day activities.
What does a modem do and how does it work?
A modem is a very important gadget for internet connection in your home or office. This network hardware device allows your computer and other devices to send and receive data through a cable to the internet.
This means that this is the device that connects your devices to the internet. The modem thus interfaces your devices and the several transmission cables such as traditional telephone cables, coax cables, and fiber optic cables.
Previously, the modems were used to change the voice signals from the telephone to the electrical signal for transmission through the hard-wired telephone systems.
The word modem is a combination of parts of two words; ‘Modulator and demodulator’. Because of this explanation it is quite clear that the modem modulates and demodulates data signals for communication.
Modulation is the process of influencing data information for transmission through a carrier for long distances. Demodulation on the other hand is the recovery of the original information at the distant end as transmitted through the carrier.
The computers and other digital devices output streams of binary data. However, both the cables and waves used in satellites transmit a variable electric signal (voice signal). Therefore to pass the information from the computer through the cable to other computers a modem is required to convert the binary stream into a variable electric signal. It can also receive an electric signal into a binary stream thus called demodulation.
The current digital technology requires a way to transmit information for long distances. This can only be done using the different cables or through the satellite. However, the information cannot be transmitted in the original format. Thus, we require a modem to format the information in a way that can be carried through the carriers.
What does a router do and how does it work?
A router is an internet network hardware that allows communication between your devices through a local area network and the internet through a modem. It can also connect connected devices without the internet.
A modem can only connect to one device while a router can connect to many devices. There are also some devices that combine both the modem and router functions. The modem router combos are called gateways.
We have wired and wireless routers. Wired routers have LAN cable ports only while a wireless router connects devices without a cable also known as Wi-Fi. Most of the routers nowadays have both LAN and WiFi capabilities.
A router also forms the first line of security, preventing other devices from intruding into your network. A router does this by creating a firewall which prevents data breaches and malware attacks.
The home devices are connected to the router through either a WiFi network or through the Ethernet LAN cables. The best routers will support a number of devices, provide fast and stable internet, and give a wide geographical coverage.
The router assigns an IP address to the devices in use local network connection. The routers also function as simple network switches thus allowing various connected devices to communicate with each other.
The routers have a CPU and memory to sort out the data that is coming in and going out. The router thus has an operating software such as DD-WRT to perform the computer like function.
There are several routers available in the market today. All these routers are able to transfer data from one device to the other. A router, therefore, is able to determine which device a set of information is intended for.
For the current smart homes where we have several devices that need to communicate with each other and to the internet, a router is a necessity. This enables all the smart devices to communicate.
Can you connect computer to modem directly?
Yes, you can connect a computer directly to a modem. This is done using an Ethernet port. This is especially useful if you have one computer.
To connect the computer to the Ethernet port, kindly follow the following steps:
- You first need to locate the Ethernet or USB port on the back of your modem. The ports are labeled thus it is easy to identify them. If you have an Ethernet cable, choose the Ethernet port. Kindly note that the USB port if available can connect another device like a laptop.
- Then, you need to locate the Ethernet port in your computer. This port looks similar to the port in your modem. It is majorly found at the back of your computer and at the side or back of your laptop.
- You can then attach the Ethernet cable to the computer/ laptop and the modem. This will create a connection between the computer and the modem.
- Finally, you need to restart the modem. This will make the modem to recognize a new device whereas the computer will automatically recognize the modem. Within a few seconds, these steps will connect your computer with the internet.
Do I need a router if I have a modem?
Depending on the number of devices, the type of modem, and the range you want to cover with the internet you may require a router or not. You will need a router in the following cases:
- Number of devices: If you have a number of devices that you want to connect to the internet and also for the devices to communicate among themselves then you will require a router. A router is able to provide a LAN that enables the connection of several devices. It also ensures that the devices can pass packets of data among themselves.
- The range you want to cover with the internet: If you want to connect the whole house with the internet without the need of lengthy Ethernet cables then you need a router. Most of the routers in use today are able to provide wireless internet to a large coverage. You can check the best router to give you a wide range or the best mesh devices for covering your whole home with WiFi.
- A router assigns IP addresses to devices in your network. Using modem means that you will be using the internet service provider’s public IP address. This therefore is harder to communicate with your devices.
- A good router blocks viruses and malware in addition to hackers from accessing your data: Having a good router ensures that your data is safely managed unlike a modem that can not protect your data.
- A good router will also provide parental control and limit the pages that your users are visiting: Most of the routers available in the market today are able to give you the ability to do parental control in your network. This is not possible with modems. Some routers also ensure that you can set internet free times to ensure you take your meals or the children sleep well.
- Some routers also have a built-in VPN server. A built-in VPN server makes it possible to log into your home network remotely
- A router can also block some requests from the internet according to the settings. This way spams or other bad requests are blocked before they reach your devices.
- You will not need a router if you are using a 2-in-1 modem/ router: The combo also called a gateway, is able to offer the functions of both a modem and a router. You should note that there are several gateways that will give you an excellent service.
How to choose the right modem and router for your network
There are several routers that are available in the market today. The modem may be compatible with different service providers or not.
This means that we have modems that can be used by several internet service providers like Spectrum, Xfinity, AT&T, cable one, CenturyLink, and Consolidated communications among others.
You may also decide to choose a combo. There are several advantages and disadvantages of using a modem/ router combo. The combo saves on space and electrical outlets used in your home or office.
It is great to check the different modems and routers specifications before buying them. These specifications help to decide which device will offer you the service you need while being compatible with your ISP needs.
For routers, you may decide the router you want depending on the following:
- Best long-range router
- Most secure router
- Budget routers
- Best routers for gaming
- Best routers for travel where a MiFi may be considered.
- The VPN routers
- Routers with parental control
- DD-WRT routers.
How do modems and routers work in conclusion
The routers and modems work in different ways in your house to get you connected to the internet. The two devices are majorly unappreciated as you access your internet at home.
In some homes, and for some service providers, the two devices come combined as one. This helps you to access the internet using fewer devices.
It should be noted that the devices complement each other in providing the internet for your several devices. Therefore, it is good to explore the best modems and routers for internet provision in your home