Access points and routers are both devices used in networking, but they serve different purposes and have distinct functions. Here are the key differences between an access point (AP) and a router:
- Function: A router is a networking device that connects multiple networks together. It is responsible for routing data between devices on a local area network (LAN) and devices on wide area networks (WAN), typically the internet. Routers determine the best path for data packets to travel between networks.
- Network Address Translation (NAT): Routers often perform Network Address Translation (NAT), which allows multiple devices on a LAN to share a single public IP address for internet access. NAT hides the internal IP addresses of devices on the LAN from the internet.
- DHCP Server: Routers frequently include a built-in DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server. This server assigns IP addresses to devices on the local network, making it easier to manage IP allocations.
- Firewall: Many routers include firewall capabilities to provide security by blocking or allowing incoming and outgoing traffic based on predefined rules.
- WAN Port: Routers typically have a WAN (Wide Area Network) port used to connect to the internet, as well as LAN ports for connecting devices within the local network.
- Wireless Capabilities: Some routers also include built-in wireless capabilities and function as wireless access points.
Access Point (AP):
- Function: An access point is a device that provides wireless connectivity to a wired network. It acts as a bridge between wireless devices (such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets) and a wired LAN. An access point’s primary function is to extend the coverage area of an existing network or create a new wireless network within a wired infrastructure.
- No Routing: Unlike a router, an access point does not perform routing, NAT, or DHCP functions. It does not determine how data packets should be forwarded between networks.
- SSID: Access points broadcast a Service Set Identifier (SSID), which is the network name that wireless devices connect to.
- Wireless Signal: Access points provide the wireless signal, and they are often connected to a router or a switch within the wired network to facilitate communication between wireless devices and the rest of the network.
- Multi-AP Networks: Large networks may have multiple access points to ensure wireless coverage throughout the entire area. In such cases, a controller or management system may be used to coordinate and manage these access points.
In summary, a router is primarily responsible for routing data between different networks, providing security features, and managing IP addresses, while an access point’s main purpose is to provide wireless connectivity within a local network. They often work together, with the router handling the routing and security functions and the access point handling wireless connections within the network.