Network components explained. What are modems, hubs, switches, and routers?

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We all come across a number of terms related to networking. Hubs, switches, modems, routers and many more. But are the same! If so, then why different names! Are they interrelated! We will find it here. Being a home user, who just turn the computer on for calculating expenses or so, the things might not matter to them. But things are worth knowing, lest you need them in the future. But if you have interest in networking, clear all your concepts here. The confusion arises as the terms are used interchangeably. In case of a home network, numerous network components are integrated into a single device. That’s yet another reason to mess things up causing a confusion.

I will discuss modems, hub, switches, and routers, in this article. A few protocols will also not be left apart. So without further delay, let’s get started.

Network components explained. What are modems, hubs, switches, and routers

What are Modems?

Now don’t say you haven’t heard of this. All the internet users came across it at some point in their lives. The modem is the abbreviation of Modulation and Demodulation. It is extensively used to carry data over conventional telephone lines. The conventional telephone lines are Analog. But our computers and laptops are bad in that. They can only understand Digital. Modem remains between a telephone line and computer to modulate and demodulate the signals whenever necessary.

What is Hub?

Hub is a device to send a single packet to multiple LAN segments. It is like giving a speech, and everybody can listen to it. When a packet is sent to the hub, it is copied to all the ports. It was useful in different scenarios. Hubs function in Layer 1 of the OSI Reference model, as there aren’t any complex routing algorithms. The performances are also not that good. Hubs nowadays are replaced by Switches, which are smarter enough.

What is Switch?

As the name suggests, it used for switching purposes. A switch is used to transfer packets within a network, between different LAN segments. The task is done smartly. It means you can set a target for the packet. Once you set the path for a packet, the routing will be handled by the switch. Switches make it easy for you to transfer files from your computer to laptop over a LAN. Switches operate in Layer 2 or Layer 3 of the OSI layer. Switches are like giving different cheats to all the members of a group. The code for each varies. But it is distributed and handled by you.

What are Routers?

I am sure you came across this term. We often go to the computer shop and ask for a Wireless router. But that is done by not knowing what exactly a router does. A router is a network component, which connects multiple networks. It can be helpful to connect your home LAN with that of your friend. As routers can connect two different networks it is often used for accessing the internet.

Generally, multiple devices are connected to a LAN. A router, when connected to the LAN, can be used to access internet on all the LAN segments. It routes the packets to and from the internet to the LAN segments. It is done through a service called NAT. I will discuss it.

What is Network Address Translator (NAT)?

Network Address Translator is used in routers. It is programmed to route the packets to and from the internet to numerous LAN segments. NAT is like a smart receptionist in a hotel. A receptionist knows, where the requests are coming from, and where to deliver a meal. The same is applicable for NAT. NAT uses DHCP, which automatically assigns an IP address to different LAN segments.

What is DHCP?

DHCP also make connecting to a Wi-Fi simple. You just need the network name (SSID), and the password. Just by entering that you can get an IP address to connect to the internet. It is done using DHCP. DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. You also do not need to play around with the network settings while connecting to your router using an Ethernet cable. Just plug and surf. Everything is possible because of DHCP.

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Sarbasish Basu
From B.Tech (Hons.) Electronics & Instrumentation Engineer to Photography and Writing blogs; he ultimately has answers to everything. Oh, and he's also quite good in rapidly building a relationship and set up the trust; his articles are proof of that...


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