Directing Your Network: Routers and Firewalls
The two most important components for a network are a router and a firewall. These are needed for both wireless home networks and Ethernet or wired networks.
What is a Router?
In many ways, a router is what makes a network possible, and a good or bad router can definitely make or break a network. All devices in your network are connected to the router (either by a wire or wirelessly).
A router works like an air-traffic controller by directing traffic between the devices attached to it. It directs messages and data between computers, between computers and devices, and between computers and the internet.
Connecting your router to the internet also means that multiple computers can share one connection via the router.
If you have a wireless home network, you may also need an access point, which is another way your network computers can connect to the internet. An access point, however, does not direct data and messages like a router.
What is a Firewall?
If a router is the traffic control centre of your network, then the firewall is the security centre. A firewall is a hardware device or software program that protects your network from security threats like malicious users and programs.
Many routers these days have hardware firewalls built-in. You can and should also download a software firewall. This will block all incoming data by default and prompt you to give certain application permission to let information in or out. This may be annoying at first, but it will teach the firewall what types of information you want coming into and going out of your network.
Many companies that produce software-based firewalls offer a free firewall download and a more advanced one that you can buy.