There are distinct differences between a switch, a router and a modem. You may have wondered why when you have bought a router you still had to use your old router or modem in order to get on the Internet. And if your old “router” was needed, it was because it had a built-in modem as well.
What is a modem used for?
When you have ADSL broadband, when you access the Internet, data is sent down your phone line, and when data is received or send down your phone line, it needs to be “translated” back and forth from analogue signals to digital information. A modem does this. Modem is short for “modulator-demodulator”. An ADSL modem with an Ethernet interface can be used to connect one device to the network (to your broadband connection), however it has limitations compared to a router. Usually if you buy an ADSL modem with Ethernet it is usually to connect to a router.
What is a router used for?
You will see on most routers multiple Ethernet ports on the back of the device. This allows you to connect multiple devices to the router in order to “share” the Internet connection. A router without a built-in modem will also need to be connected to an ADSL modem in order to translate analogue signal to digital information (which computers undestand how to process). For example, ADSL modems with an Ethernet interface will connect to the router via an Ethernet cable. A switch is usually used in complex network set up scenarios, for example in an office environment or in an environment where there are a lot of devices connected to the local area network (LAN – i.e. the broadband connection). A router understands which device to send data to as it is received. A router essentially is a switch built-in, although not as sophisticated as a switch.
What is a switch used for?
A switch allows multiple devices to be connected to a network. Do note that a switch simply connects multiple devices to a network and still requires a router to be able to send that data out to the world wide web (however, correctly, a router sends data between computer networks – and the “Internet” is essentially a huge interconnected network).
Switches are relatively inexpensive now, and are definitely to be used in a corporate environment. However, if you require a switch in a home or home office environment, you can purchase switches with 8 Ethernet ports. Today I had found a 24-port switch for £149.99.
So what do I need at home?
At home, you usually have a microfiltre (to prevent interference between analogue devices and the DSL connection), and in an ADSL broadband setting, an ADSL broadband cable (usually grey – also referred to as an RJ11 ADSL cable) is connected to the router (or modem, if your router doesn’t have built-in modem). If your router doesn’t come with built-in WIFi, you would connect your computer (or other electronic device, or a switch) to one of the available Ethernet ports.
If you’re needing to buy new equipment, it is best to buy a wireless router with a built-in modem. You then simply need to connect the ADSL cable and either the Ethernet cable into your computer or connect to the WiFi network. Don’t forget to secure your WiFi network if it isn’t already, when you buy a wireless router. The documentation or manual that comes with your router usually explains how to do this. For NETGEAR-based routers, it is usually http://www.routerlogin.net to change router-related settings.
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