What’s a WLAN router?

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A router connects a LAN to a WAN and acts as a traffic cop between a computer/network and the internet. A WLAN router adds wireless access and contains an 802.11 wireless access point. A WLAN access point separates the functions of a normal router and an integrated WLAN access point. Security is a concern and a WEP key is recommended.

A router is a device that moves data packets between computer networks. Typically, the router connects a local area network (LAN), such as in a home or office, to a wide area network (WAN), which can be a cable modem or a digital service line (DSL) modem. Simply put, by its most common use, a router is the traffic cop between a computer or network and the Internet. A wireless LAN (WLAN) router adds extra functionality to your router by allowing wireless access to it from wireless network-equipped devices or WLAN cards.

Routers typically contain multiple Ethernet ports so that multiple computers and devices can be connected. A WLAN router will have this same functionality, but in addition it contains an 802.11 wireless access point. This means that the number of devices that can connect wirelessly to the router is limited only by the bandwidth of the WAN it is connected to.

In a home environment, where the user will be connecting to a cable or DSL modem, many of which only have one port open, a router may be the best option. Many cable and telephone companies, however, offer wireless capabilities built into their modems. This eliminates the need for a separate WLAN router.

In a corporate network environment, a network router is usually already installed, so adding a WLAN router creates problems. In this case, there would be two devices trying to do the same job. For these types of networks, what the user will want is not a WLAN router but a WLAN access point. A WLAN router is actually a normal router with an integrated WLAN access point. A WLAN access point simply separates these two functions.

For computers that do not have built-in WLAN cards, other options are available. You can purchase a WLAN dongle that plugs into a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port which will make your computer wireless. For older laptops, there are WLAN cards that plug into card slots. For desktop computers, you can install the WLAN USB device or a WLAN card.
Whether you use a WLAN router or a WLAN access point, security is a concern. If left unchecked, these devices can leave networks vulnerable to nearby hackers. For this reason, a security device known as a wired equivalent privacy key (WEP) was developed. This is a series of random letters and numbers that a device must have entered in order to access the router or WLAN access point.

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