The Internet has become such an Integral part of human society that most people can hardly function without it. It is great for research, entertainment, shopping and communication.
It is the reason why each Internet user should strive to understand the different components that make Internet connections possible.
When setting up a network to allow you to access the Internet, you will often come across different products and terms that can easily leave you confused.
It can literally feel like you are learning a completely new language.
Two products that people often find confusing are access points and routers. Access points and routers might be two separate products, but there are many instances when their features crossover.
It is easy to get confused about whether to choose an access point, router, or even both.
People often use the terms router and access points interchangeably, which should not be the case.
The following few paragraphs will explain what each device is and the key differences between the two so that you can make an informed purchase decision.
What is A Router and What Does It Do?
A router is a devices used to route packets of data between different networks. A router has two network Interfaces: Wide Area Network (WAN) and Local Area Network (LAN). It serves to connect your local network (LAN) to the Internet (WAN).
A router takes the signal from your modem or your Internet Service Provider (ISP) then splits it into several signals that you can use in your home.
It is for this reason that you are able to connect multiple devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets simultaneously.
ISPs typically allocate just a single IP address per user, which means that if you wish to connect multiple devices at the same time via an Ethernet cable, you will be required to invest in a router.
The main function of a router is to allow users and devices to connect to other networks and within a network.
Simply put, a router is necessary for connecting to the Internet. It assigns IP addresses to devices and computers that join the network so that they are able to share data and communicate.
Computers and devices connected to a router can share files with each other or even use a shared resource such as a scanner, printer, etc.
Devices connected to the router can also share the same Internet connection. If you’re looking for a good router, you can check out the best wireless routers here.
Routers typically communicate with connected devices using Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or both. It is important to understand that while routers nowadays have wireless capabilities, it is not this that makes them routers. The wireless capabilities of routers are simply wireless access points built into the routers.
Routers allow network administrators to adjust various settings of the network including network storage features, media servers, and FTP.
What is A Wireless Access Point and What Does It Do?
A wireless access point is a radio receiver/transmitter that supports wireless connections. It is a direct bridge between wired (Ethernet) connections and wireless (Wi-Fi) connections. It is the interface through which wireless clients connect to a Local Area Network (LAN).
A wireless access point has two main functions. The first is that it can be used to provide wireless access to devices without in-built wireless functionality. The second function is to extend the wireless range of a network.
If your router lacks wireless capabilities a wireless access point can allow you to connect to the Internet wirelessly even though your router is connected to the Internet via Ethernet cable.
Wireless access points also allow devices such as scanners and printers to connect to a network (LAN) wirelessly.
Wireless access points can be used to extend the Wi-Fi range of your network. If you connect an Ethernet cable between the router and access point, you will be able to increase the distance in which you are able to access a single wireless network.
If you are struggling with your wireless signal in any part of your office or home, you can install a wireless access point to improve the network.
You could use an extender/repeater, but using a dedicated access point provides a much better experience if properly done.
What Is the Difference Between a Router and an Access point?
A router allows you to build a network and get access to the Internet while an access point provides a way for accessing this network. You cannot use an access point to either set up or make any changes to the settings of your network.
It simply lacks the intelligence to do that on its own.
Routers are generally a single point usually with Wi-Fi included, unless you purchase a cable modem/router combo product, whereby the router will be combined with the modem.
The most confusing thing is probably the fact that routers nowadays are wireless, which means that they can be used both as routers and wireless access points.
It is actually possible to disable the routing features on an old router and use it as an access point, which will allow you to connect to other networks or extend your network.
The Bottom Line: Access Points Vs Routers
Access points are devices to which wireless (Wi-Fi) devices connect. Access points are connected to routers that route packets of date to the outside network (WAN) to provide Internet access.
Routers typically don’t have wireless capabilities but connect the LAN to the WAN to gain access to the Internet.
The reality is that the average person will probably never come across a router and access point as two separate devices.
The reason is that today’s routers have the functionality of the router and the access point combined into one package.
The information provided here should help you distinguish between a router and a wireless access point to help you make an informed purchase decision.
If you are still confused about the two terms and don’t know which one to choose, talk to a qualified technician.