Modem Versus Router: What You Need to Know

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Keeping up with ever-changing technology jargon can seem overwhelming. While you probably don’t need to know what ATAPI or DRM mean (Attachment Packet Interface and Direct Rights Management, in case you’re wondering), it can be useful to know the difference between a modem and a router and what they mean for your Internet service.

What Is the Difference Between a Router and a Modem?

While they perform similar functions and are sometimes even housed in the same physical unit, modems and routers are separate devices that perform distinct functions. For best Internet connection and security, you’ll want to use both a modem and a router, though technically only the modem is required.

What a Modem Does

iStock_000001065385XSmallThe modem establishes and maintains a connection with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and converts the signal so other devices can understand it. You can either connect a single device to the modem via Ethernet cable or connect the modem to a router, which will allow you to connect multiple devices to the Internet at the same time. Because the modem has to speak the same language as your ISP, you’ll need a cable modem or a DSL modem, depending on the type of Internet your ISP offers.

What a Router Does

Wireless New Black GatewayThe router allows computers and other devices to access the same network — it routes the Internet signal from the modem to the appropriate device, and vice versa. The router also allows devices on the same network to communicate with each other. Most routers are now wireless, though some older versions include multiple ports to connect multiple devices via Ethernet.

You cannot connect a router to the Internet without a modem translating the signal. Think of a modem as the central hub, and the router as the technology needed to make the connection more widely available. The two devices perform different tasks, but they work together to provide wireless Internet to a network.

Does Your CenturyLink Modem Replace Your Router?

Linksys CenturyLink Internet Compatible DSL ModemBecause they are two different devices, your modem alone does not replace your router. However, CenturyLink does offer the two technologies in one device: if you purchase a newer model, it will serve both functions.

You can also connect a third-party router to your CenturyLink modem. Whether you are renting a modem from CenturyLink or have your own, you need both devices to get your wireless Internet to function most effectively.

What Are the Advantages of Having a Router?

Many different routers are available to consumers today and they all perform a little differently. Most routers offer the benefit of a flexible connection and heightened security.

Increased Internet Access

Routers allow multiple devices to connect to the same IP address, or network. With a router, you can have phones, tablets, and laptops all connected to the same wireless network at the same time. This is extremely helpful for businesses, which likely have multiple devices connected to their networks at all times.

Increased Security

Most routers come with some form of built-in firewall protection to help keep your network secure. These firewalls can help prevent unwanted traffic from entering or leaving your network. It is always best to connect devices to a secure network to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

Increased Support

Some routers include a serial port that can be connected to an external dial-up modem. This may be a useful backup option for individuals and businesses if the primary Internet connection goes down.

Does Having a Modem and Router in Different Areas of Your Home Improve Your Internet?

Where you place your router can dramatically affect your Internet connection, for better or worse. You will likely have the best connection when you are close to the router or directly connected to it. Of course, you can’t always be sitting right next to your router or connected to it, so follow these tips to improve your wireless connection:

  • Place your router in a central location.
  • Avoid placing it near metal, brick, concrete, or water, as they can block the signal.
  • Place the router up high, such as on top of a table or desk — not hidden away behind your TV or couch.

Now that you know the difference between a modem and a router, make the most of your Internet connection by contacting us to learn more about CenturyLink® High-Speed Internet.

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