Routers for Home Computer Networks: Their Features and Functions

Home networks can’t function without broadband routers, but their capabilities extend far beyond simple connection sharing. In recent years, manufacturers have been increasing the number of features they include in their products.

Single or Dual Band Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi routers used to have only one radio that broadcast on the 2.4GHz frequency spectrum. 802.11n routers, which use the MIMO technique, were then introduced (multiple in multiple out). Home routers may now communicate across a broader frequency spectrum or over several different bands thanks to the inclusion of two or more integrated radio transmitters.

A dual-band Wi-Fi router has a variety of radios and operates on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. These routers allow you to set up two separate wireless networks and reap the benefits of each. When it comes to Wi-Fi, 5 GHz connections are more powerful, but the range and compatibility of 2.4 GHz connections are often superior. ​

Traditional or Gigabit Ethernet

Wi-Fi was not supported by many first- and second-generation home routers. These wired internet routers only have Ethernet connections for connecting a PC, printer, and maybe a gaming console. Some homeowners opted to prewire their homes with Ethernet cable in order to get the most out of the new technology.

Even today, despite the widespread use of Wi-Fi and mobile devices that do not enable wired connections, manufacturers continue to include Ethernet in residential routers. In many circumstances, Ethernet connections outperform wireless ones in terms of network performance. The most common broadband modems connect through Ethernet to routers, and many serious gamers choose it over Wi-Fi for their gaming systems

Until recently, routers offered the same 100 Mbps technology (also referred to as 10/100 or Fast Ethernet) as their predecessors. It’s preferable for video streaming and other resource-intensive applications to use gigabit Ethernet, which is available on newer and higher-end versions.

IPv4 and IPv6

Internet Protocol (IP) is supported by all home routers (IP). IPv6 and IPv4 are both supported by all contemporary routers, and both are still widely used on the Internet (IPv4). IPv4 was the only protocol supported by older wireless routers. While an IPv6-capable router isn’t essential, the security and performance benefits it delivers are worth the investment.

Network Address Translation (NAT)

Network address translation (NAT) establishes a home network’s addressing scheme and its Internet connection as one of the most fundamental security elements of a router. To ensure that replies are sent to the proper device, NAT keeps track of all the devices connected to a router and any messages they send out. In the same way, as network firewalls prevent unwanted traffic, NAT firewalls do the same.

Connection and Resource Sharing

Users can share printers and other resources via routers. Print jobs may be sent to a printer from a computer or phone connected to a home network through Wi-Fi, which is supported by most current printers.

External hard drives may be plugged into USB ports on some routers. Storage in the network may be used to transfer files to other devices. Alternatively, these disks may be disconnected from the network and transferred to different places, such as while on a business trip.

Even if a router doesn’t have USB storage capabilities, it still allows for network file sharing across devices. Network operating system functionalities or cloud storage systems can be used to distribute files.

Guest Networks

Guest networking is a feature of several wireless routers that allows users to create a separate network for guests. Visitors cannot snoop around your home network resources without your consent thanks to guest networks, which block access to the principal home network. In particular, a guest network employs a distinct security configuration and different Wi-Fi security keys than the rest of the home network, so that your private keys are kept safe.

Parental Controls and Other Access Restrictions

Parental controls are frequently marketed as a selling factor by router makers. A router’s specific model determines how these controls are implemented. Parental controls on a router include the following:

  • By name, you may block particular websites.
  • Limit the amount of time a youngster spends on the internet.
  • Restrict the amount of time a youngster spends on the internet each day.

The console menus of a router administrator are used to establish parental control restrictions. When a child’s gadgets are limited, the rest of the family’s devices are not. In order to prevent a youngster from renaming a computer to circumvent parental restrictions, routers keep track of the physical (Media Access Control) addresses of all local devices.

Access limitations are more accurate than parental controls since the same features may be used by spouses and other household members, too.

VPN Server and Client Support

Because of the rise of wireless networking, virtual private network (VPN) technology has become increasingly popular for enhancing the security of internet connections. The vast majority of users use VPNs at work and on their mobile devices while connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. Some routers include VPN support, although it’s usually limited to a few devices at a time.

VPN routers for the home normally only support the VPN server. VPN connections can be set up for members of the family while they are gone. Only a small percentage of home routers provide VPN client compatibility, limiting the number of devices in the home that may connect to the internet through VPN.

Port Forwarding and UPnP

It is a commonly used but well-understood function of home routers, port forwarding, which allows an administrator to divert incoming traffic to certain devices inside the home network according to the TCP and UDP port numbers contained in individual messages. Examples of this include PC gaming and web hosting, to name a couple of examples.

Information: TCP is an abbreviation for the Transmission Control Protocol. UDP is an abbreviation for the user datagram protocol.

The universal plug and play (UPnP) standard was created to make it easier for computers and apps to interface with home networks by reducing the number of ports they must utilize. A large number of connections that would otherwise require manual configuration of port forwarding entries on a router are automatically established by using UPnP. Virtually all common home routers enable UPnP as an optional feature, which administrators may turn off if they want to preserve complete control over the router’s port forwarding decisions.

Quality of Service

When it comes to controlling the quality of service (QoS) on a home network, standard home routers provide a number of choices. When a network administrator configures Quality of Service (QoS), he or she can grant specified devices and applications higher priority access to network resources.

Most broadband routers have a function called Quality of Service (QoS), which may be turned on or off. Home routers that support Quality of Service (QoS) may offer different settings for wired Ethernet connections and wireless Wi-Fi connections. Ordinarily, devices that need to be prioritized are recognized by their physical MAC address. Other typical Qualities of Service choices are as follows:

  • Individual TCP or UDP ports are frequently prioritized higher or lower than other traffic, depending on the situation. Typically, administrators utilize these settings to offer better priority to network gamers on their networks.
  • Video streaming and voice traffic over Wi-Fi networks are automatically detected and prioritized by WMM (Wi-Fi multimedia) Quality of Service (QoS). In many routers, WMM is available as a selectable option; in certain models, WMM remains on by default.

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)

WPS (Wi-Fi protected setup) is based on a straightforward concept: The configuration of home networks (particularly their security settings) may be time-consuming and error-prone, so anything that streamlines the process saves time and avoids errors is a good thing. Using a push-button connection technique or specific personal identification numbers, WPS provides ways to make security authentication of Wi-Fi devices easier by reducing the number of steps required (PINs). These are passkeys that may occasionally be exchanged automatically through the use of near-field communication technologies (NFC). Some Wi-Fi clients, on the other hand, do not enable WPS, which raises questions about their security.

Upgradeable Firmware

In most cases, router manufacturers update their router operating systems on a regular basis, fixing issues and adding new features. All current routers include a firmware update option, which allows owners to upgrade their routers after they have purchased them, if necessary. Linksys is one of the few router manufacturers that goes the extra mile to help their customers in replacing the original firmware with a third-party (typically open source) version like as DD-WRT.

Although the ordinary homeowner may not give a damn about it, some computer aficionados believe that the ability to alter firmware is an important element to consider when selecting a home router.

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