Thursday, 16 April 2015

A guide to how your router works with the Internet (made simple)

The internet is a wonderful thing and we probably don't spend a lot of time even thinking about how it works, so we  thought it might be useful to produce a guide explaining just how routers work within your network and the role they play.

We rely so much on e-mail and the internet and by and large, take it for granted that when we search for something  or send an e-mail, we will get the information immediately and our e-mails will be received simultaneously.  It helps to understand how things can go wrong and what you can do to fix some issues. 


Every computer connected to the internet is part of a huge network.  At home, you probably use a modem that dials a number to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).  You then become part of their network.  They in turn, connect to a higher tier network and so on.

Most large communication companies have their own dedicated backbones which connect various areas.  In each area the company will have a Point of Presence (POP).  The POP is where users access the company's network either through a dedicated line or local telephone number. The different levels of networks connect to each other by Network Access Points (NAP's.) The diagram below shows that a business will have its own network called a local area network (LAN).






image courtesy howstuffworks.com

It helps to understand that there are literally masses of internet providers that connect at NAP's in various cities and trillions of bytes of data flows between the networks at these points. This is what allows every computer to talk to each other.

These networks rely on the backbones, NAP's and routers to talk to one another.  A router is a piece of kit, well actually, a small computer, which makes sure data received goes to the right destination and conversely that data does not go where it shouldn't.  A router controls the flow of information.

A router uses configuration tables to decide exactly where a packet of information has to go to.  This is a collection of information  which includes rules for handing routine and special cases of traffic, priorities for connections to be used and information on which connections lead to groups of addresses.  

An e-mail message or web page travels over a system known as a packet switching network (PSN)  This simply means that the data is broken up into smaller packets of about 1,500 bytes.  These packets are wrapped up with various bits of info to ensure they reach their destination.  These individual packets may go via different routes, in order that the network can balance the load of data across bits of equipment on a millisecond by millisecond basis.  If all the packets are not received together, the packets will be routed around until the whole message is received.

Sometimes, when routers do not behave, some of these data packets get "stuck" and do not find their way to their destination, so it may be necessary to "re-boot" the router to clear it out.  You simply unplug the power lead and leave this out for 3 - 4 minutes.  Obviously this will make your internet connection drop off completely when you do so.  

Needless to say, there are various types of  routers and it goes without saying that if you are running a business then to purchase a cheap basic router is foolhardy.  It will have a profound affect on the way your data packets are handled and will impact on your network security.  You really do get what you pay for!

A good business use router for both data and voice (VoIP) is the Draytek Vigor 2830.    Easy to set up, reliable and robust enough to handle all your business needs.

Vigor 2830 Series ADSL Router Firewall

For more information on this product go to DrayTek

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