A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the traffic directing functions on the Internet. Data sent through the internet, such as a web page or email, is in the form of data packets. A packet is typically forwarded from one router to another router through the networks that constitute an internetwork (e.g. the Internet) until it reaches its destination node. Routers operate on the Internet layer of the TCP-IP model. The Internet layer is synonymous with the Network layer of the OSI model. It provides addressing, data connectivity and switching.
Routers are used to connect a WAN or WAN to your LAN or connect dissimilar networks together. Routers can be used to filter and isolate traffic or segment network traffic like switches.
A router is connected to two or more data lines from different IP networks. When a data packet comes in on one of the lines, the router reads the network address information in the packet header to determine the ultimate destination. Then, using information in its routing table or routing policy, it directs the packet to the next network on its journey.
The most familiar type of IP routers are home and small office routers that simply forward IP packets between the home computers and the Internet. An example of a router would be the owner's cable or DSL router, which connects to the Internet through an Internet service provider (ISP). More sophisticated routers, such as enterprise routers, connect large business or ISP networks up to the powerful core routers that forward data at high speed along the optical fiber lines of the Internet backbone.