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Access Point vs Router: An In-Depth Comparison
Access Point vs Router Technology jargon is often impenetrable and super confusing. How is a regular person supposed to understand how modern technology—which surrounds us at every step—functions and how we are best meant to utilize it? There are enough technology experts out there to set-up, install, and maintain our daily technological needs, but their existence is not to say people should not understand what it is they use. That is the importance of understanding an access point vs router. Few folks nowadays could function without the Internet. It is an infinite well of research, an escape for entertainment, and the primary platform for almost any successful business—home or otherwise. Without it, millions of people would be in trouble. That is why it is important to understand the various components that make the Internet and connection happen. Two bits of Internet connection terminology are the access point and the router. Often, they are used interchangeably; this is incorrect. Though access points and routers may seem functionally similar, they each boast varied differences and purposes.

What is an Access Point?

An access point is a radio receiver/transmitter that supports a wireless connection. It is usually the direct bridge between a wired (often called Ethernet) system and wireless systems. It is the interface from which all of your wireless clients may connect to your Local Area Network (LAN). For an easy visual, imagine an access point as an antenna of sorts. With one, you can share your Internet system with everything around you. It is like a portal or an open door. Modern access points have advanced features. Some of these include security characteristics and the ability to block different wireless devices from ever seeing each other. An access point can serve to connect and split apart.

What is a Router?

When most people use the word "router" in casual speech, they are actually often referring to the "wireless router." This is not what that is, and it is important to know the difference (and also to speak accurately about technology to diminish confusion). A regular router routes information packets across your various networks. If you need to send an email or download information or even reach a website, that information must go through the router to be "routed" to the correct destination. The network you have at home differs from the one by your Internet Service Provider (ISP); it is, specifically, the final device between you and your ISP. It also has other features, including a built-in switch and Network Address Translation (NAT) capabilities.

What Are They to Each Other?

Both are core components to achieving an accessible Internet connection and essentially act as the links between different systems, both inside the home and out. The two often get lumped together in a discussion because their jobs are so similar, but it is important to understand the differences.

Not to Be Confused with a Wireless Router

As alluded to earlier, many people confuse "router" with "wireless router." The object that most people have in their homes and businesses for the purposes of Internet connection is actually a wireless router. What is a wireless router? In a nutshell, it is actually a router and an access point combined into one unit. That's partially why people are much more familiar with the term "router" (since that's what people call the wireless router) than the access point (which has now been integrated into the wireless router). In total, a "wireless router" contains a number of specific components: the router, the access point, the switch, a Domain Name System (DNS) server, and the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server.

In Conclusion

Overwhelmingly so, the average person will never actually encounter an access point and router as separate from one another; it is generally more convenient to have them both inside a wireless router. Some smaller, tech-focused businesses, however, may elect to keep them separate, as it gives them more control over their wireless networks. To see what the benefits are for you regarding an access point vs router, talk to a qualified technician.  

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