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Routers vs. Access Points

So you are creating your own wireless network, and you are wondering what the difference is between a router and an access point. This is a pretty common query, since some of their tasks seem to overlap at first sight. For instance, both access points and routers provide access to the internet. But this is where the similarity stops.

What Does a Router Do?

A router is like a server, because it performs the functions of a server. A router directs data and commands coming from different places in the network towards their destinations. It organizes and choreographs the network's real-time communications.

A router can also act as a DHCP server, assigning dynamic IP addresses to each computer every time they boot up. A router can also perform port forwarding.

Finally, a router connects multiple computers to the internet. The router has an IP address that other computers on the internet can see, and it assigns different, private IP addresses to the computers connecting to it. This adds another level of security to your network since in theory, users on the internet do not know there are multiple computers in your network connected to the internet through a router, they just see the router as one computer. This may block some unwanted traffic from reaching your computers. You do still, however, need a firewall and other security features.

What Does an Access Point Do?

An access point does not perform all the functions of a router. An access point is basically what it sounds like: it provides your network computers with a wireless point of access to the internet. They also provide slower access the more computers are trying to get onto the internet at the same time.

Access points can come with some of the same security features as routers, but they will not perform its server-like functions. You can think of it this way: Whereas an access point is like a door to the internet for your network, a router is more like a police officer directing the traffic within your network and deciding who can and cannot enter and exit the network.

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