Routers vs. Modems

The terms router and modem are often used interchangeably, and while the two devices can look similar, they each serve a different purpose. So what does a modem do? What does a router do? Fortunately, the functions of the two devices are pretty easy to understand.

Understanding the difference between the two can help you diagnose and possibly fix networking problems before having to call technical support. They are especially different when we think about how they’re used in a home or business location.

In today’s post, we’ll be providing an explanation of routers and modems and illustrate how and why each device is important. Here's a quick overview of what they are and how they both work to bring you wireless connectivity. You may also be wondering what the difference is between a modem vs. a gateway which we will also explain.

What Makes Them Different

A modem is typically designed to serve a single piece of attached equipment. They are typically attached to the equipment through pins on a computer motherboard, an open slot on a motherboard, a USB port, or a serial cable. A modem may also include a rudimentary firewall that is able to open or close network ports.

The equipment that is attached to the modem is joined to the outside network, and the equipment depends upon the outside network to employ proper security or must implement its own security mechanisms. Often the equipment that uses the modem must issue detailed instructions unique to that particular brand and model of modem in order to make or end an internet connection.

So what does a router do? A router is designed to serve multiple and sometimes many pieces of attached equipment. Equipment attaches to the router with an Ethernet cable. The router includes a robust firewall that not only can open and close network ports but also block or allow specific types of traffic and allow or block certain destinations and sources. The router creates its own local network and the equipment attached to it is on that separate local network.

The router connects the larger network beyond the attached equipment to this local network by translating between the two networks. This provides added security because equipment on the larger network can reach equipment on the router’s local network only if the router is configured to allow it.

In addition, the attached equipment is issued addresses in a separate range which further protects them from potential threats that originate on the larger, outside network. Routers support complicated configurations and offer one more method of allowing administrators to log in to them for the purpose of examining and changing their configurations. A gateway (in network terms) is a router that provides access for IP packets into and/or out of the local network.

Which is Right For You?

Most of our customers opt for routers because they offer a simple connection via an Ethernet cable and feature robust security features, especially when they are connecting an ATM in an unattended location. We also offer a smart embedded modem™ called OptConnect ema™ that is just as secure as our routers.

That's because ema operates on a secure private network ensuring that the equipment it is connected to remains secure. In addition, OptConnect ema™ is embedded inside equipment (ATMs, kiosks, etc.) attached directly to the motherboard before they are deployed. As a result, no one has physical access to the modem.

This physical security combined with the security of the private network combines to make ema an excellent choice for manufacturers who plan to deploy large numbers of equipment and want the equipment to be able to connect to the cellular network without any additional effort.

Choosing a router or a modem can depend on many factors. To learn more about which OptConnect router or modem is best for your business, contact us here.

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