A lot of people get confused between modems, routers and access points, they generally just want to click a button and jump on the internet. However, understanding what each device does and what it’s functions are will help you in trouble shooting what the problem is when your internet is not working.

MODEM – This is the device that is generally provided by the company that provides you with internet, Comcast, AT&T or Consolidated (in this area). The modem translates the digital 1s and 0s from your computer into the analog information for the cable/telephone provider and visa versa.  This is called modulation and demodulation, respectively, and it’s where the “mo-dem” gets its name.


ROUTER – Connects your devices to the modem, and each other. (Some modems will also come with a built in router. ) It gives each device it’s own internal IP address, which it uses to route traffic between them. Your modem’s IP address is like the street address of a building, your router’s internal IP addresses are like apartment numbers. Your modem receives information from the internet, sends it to the router, and the router sends it to the computer that asked for it.

The network created by your router is known as a local area network, or LAN, and it connects you to a larger wide area network, or WAN. In most home cases, your WAN is, for all intents and purposes, the internet.

A Router can be Hard Wired or Wireless or both.


WIRELESS ACCESS POINT – If you need to wireless capability to your wired network, or extend the range of the wireless network, then you would use a Wireless Access Point. You can also use multiple Wireless Access points in you business or large house to cover a wide area.


ETHERNET OVER POWER – uses an electrical outlet to create or expand a wireless network. We have used these often in-conjunction with wireless access points in homes where installing ethernet lines is more difficult than in businesses.

SWITCH – If you need more network connections than your router provides then you would need a switch. You just plug your extra devices into the switch, plug the switch into your router, and they’ll appear on your network. Note that you need a router in order to use a switch. A switch can’t assign IP addresses or create a network like your router can—it merely acts as a traffic cop for the signals coming through.

These Features Can Be Combined Into Single Units

Not everyone has a separate modem, router, and access point in their home. These days, you’ll find a lot of these features combined into one device. For example, as we mentioned above, most people use wireless routers, which combine a router with a wireless access point. Many people even use modem/router combo units, which contain a modem, router, and wireless access point all in one device. These can save space and eliminate some wires, but just like shampoo and conditioner, some people like to keep these devices separate, since it allows for more choices.