Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here. Become a Patron of Ask Leo! The hub itself is blissfully ignorant of the data being transmitted. For many years, hubs were quick and easy ways to connect computers in small networks. A switch does what a hub does, but more efficiently. By paying attention to the traffic that comes across it, it learns which computers are connected to which port.
Just by accepting that first message, however, the switch has learned something: it knows on which connection the sender of the message is located. Switches learn the location of the devices they are connected to almost instantaneously. The result is, most network traffic only goes where it needs to, rather than to every port. On busy networks, this can make the network significantly faster.
A router is the smartest and most complicated of the three. Routers come in all shapes and sizes, from small, four-port broadband routers to large industrial-strength devices that drive the internet itself. One way to think of a router is as a computer 2 that can be programmed to understand, manipulate, and act on the data it handles. A router operates as a switch for basic routing: it learns the location of the computers sending traffic, and routes information only to the necessary connections.
See the Ask Leo! Not to be confused with IP, which is completely unrelated. An ISP is the company providing your home or place of business its connection to the internet. They may also provide services such as email, web hosting, or more. Your local computers, on the other hand, will ask the router for an IP address, and these addresses are local to your network. A side effect of NAT is that machines on the internet cannot initiate communications to local machines; they can only respond to communications initiated by them.
This means that the router also acts as an effective firewall.
Malware that spreads by trying to independently connect to your computer over the network cannot do so. All routers include some kind of user interface for configuring how the router treats traffic. Really large routers include the equivalent of a full-blown programming language to describe how they should operate, as well as the ability to communicate with other routers to describe or determine the best way to get network traffic from point A to point B.
The wireless component is simply another way of making a connection to the device.
For example, a wireless router might have four physical network connections to which cables can be connected, but the wireless component allows many more devices to connect over the air. One other thing often mentioned with these devices is network speed. Most devices now are capable of both mbps megabits, or million bits, per second as well as 1gbps one gigabit, or billion bits per second , and automatically detect speed.
Download right-click, Save-As Duration: — 3. It depends on your ISP.
IP 101: The Basics of IP Addresses
A Router that does network address translation NAT allows them to all use the single IP address and still access the internet. A switch will also not give you the safety of a firewall that a NAT router does. My recommendation: spring for a router In a word: maybe. You may just have to try the combinations to see which work. Hi Leo, I just searched Google for the differences between a hub, a switch, and a router and landed on your site.
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Your summary is very well done, I still have a few questions: 1. If I have a single cable internet account with a static IP and I want to use the internet with two computers simultaneously, will a router do the job?
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Will I be able to transmit files between the two computers using an internal network with this setup? Which brand do you recommend for a router?
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Which one offers Gigabit routers? Thanks again for your help and keep up this great website!! It rocks!!
It really does!! Thanks for your kind words, John. And if not, there are alternatives to work around that too. Cisco now owns LinkSys, and they of course do good stuff. Great site, it helped clear up some misconceptions I had about the differences between the three. I just have one question, is there a difference between a small 4 or 8 port switch like you could buy at your local computer store and the big 24 or 36 or even port switches that are used for networking purposes in businesses and schools? Thanks for your time, much appreciated. Heh … neat question.
In short: price and capacity. In the truly higher end devices, they can often be joined together, or have additional components added.
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For example a large Cisco router might actually have removeable components, much like cards you could add to your PC, that allow it to be configured or customized to the application at hand. I seem to be in a unique situation, which people say should not be, including the tech support for my ISP. I have a DSL modem running directly to a hub, which has a internet port.
I then have all remaining ports available running to individual computers. Yet, somehow, each computer is able to log onto the internet at the same time. I know for a fact it is a hub, and that I only have one IP address. Any thoughts? That is kind of interesting All the computers are now running XP, but a couple were running Win98 for a while.
One thing I did find out a while ago, was when this ability went away. Hello Leo, I found this iste like the other guy who did a search for the difference between a Switch and a Router. I am running WinXp and I have a cable connection, I am using a switch to connect the rest of the computers in the house to the internet. I have 2 network cards in my main machine, one for the modem signal and the other to carry that signal to the switch which in return feeds the other machines and the downfall is that when I turn the main machine off all the others lose the internet connection.
What I did was buy a Router which I am waiting for to come in the mail. Will a router solve my problem? Yep, everything you describe makes perfect sense. And the good news it that yes, an appropriate router ought to be exactly what you need. The cable modem will plug into the router, all the computers will plug into the router, each should be independant and able to connect up, or turn off, without affecting the others.