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Router vs Access Point

Author:  Eric Meyer
Date:  2006.04.05
Topic:  Other
Provider:  None
Manufacturer:  None

While planning for your wireless network you might be asking what is the difference between a router and an access point. You need to think of a router as more of a server because it performs many functions like a server. An access point only provides a portal for wireless client to connect to your existing LAN.

Routers can perform many functions. Routers can connect many different WLANs together acting like a traffic cop. Routers also act as a DHCP server. A DHCP server assigns dynamic IP address to your computer every time your computer starts up. If you don’t have a DHCP server then you will have to assign each computer on your network a permanent IP address.

As I have said before your router can also act like a traffic cop. You can use a router to perform port forwarding to certain computers on your LAN. For example you can direct all internet traffic looking for your game server’s port number to a specific computer on your LAN.

The ability to connect multiple computers to the internet is one of the main features of a router. The router is assigned one WAN IP address from your ISP. This IP address is called a public IP address that everyone on the internet can see. Because you have multiple computers connected to your router the router uses a protocol called NAT {Network address translation} NAT will assign the computers that are behind your routers IP address, private IP addresses. NAT acts as a firewall because computers on the internet cannot in theory even see your computers. They will only see the IP address of your router. NAT does block traffic from reaching your computers but it will not block Trojans from going out to the internet. That is why I do recommend installing a firewall on your LAN computers.

The role of an access point on a LAN is to give the wireless user a door way to enter. The more people that enter the door at the same time the slower they will go. 802.11b access points say they will give you a through put rate of 11mps but the actual rate is around 5MPS. 802.11g has a rating of 54mbps with an actual through put of 20mbps. The access points do have most of the same security features as a router such as WEP, WPA, 8021x and TKPI but they will not have the traffic cop functions like a router. Also the access points will not have NAT which would add an unnecessary layer to your network. To keep it simple access points just simulate plugging in your laptop to a port in the wall and that’s it. A router is used on the border of you network to act as a traffic cop deciding who can come in and blocking those you want to keep out.

This is a good example of how to use an access point. The access point in this picture is giving wireless clients network access and acting as a bridge between two wired networks. This setup would be ideal for large ware house that needs to connect wired clients on both sides with out running cables.

Eric Meyer writes about networking wireless technology. Visit his blog here.

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