Q&A: I own one computer. Do I need a router?

Welcome to the inaugural Q & A column — an informative rebuttal to popular networking myths. I’m going to be tackling questions across a wide range of products, topics and experience levels. I encourage you to send your questions my way on Twitter: @thedavidmurphy.

Question: I only have one computer. Do I really need a router?

Answer: Need is a tough word. It implies necessity, which is something I’d reserve for more significant computer-related issues: Do I need a graphics card? To play most current games, yes. Do I need that can of air duster? Yes — how else are you going to clean your PC? Do I need a 30-inch display? No, not unless you are wealthy, an avid gamer, or a wealthy avid gamer.

Now, a router? You don’t need one based solely on the fact that you can still hook up most desktop and laptop systems to your cable or DSL modem via a simple Ethernet cord. Voila. Internet.

But here’s the kicker: Depending on your network device, you could be opening up your system to direct, unfiltered access to the Net. As far as security goes, your always-on connection presents a juicy target for people (and autonomous software programs) looking to take advantage of an unprotected system.

A router — in contrast to a switch, which is more of a “dumb” bridge between devices plugged into it — erects a brick wall between your home system and the outside world. An included hardware firewall ensures that your outgoing traffic stays unmolested. Malefactors looking to tamper with systems on your internal network are effectively shut out.

I’m hardly scratching the surface of the benefits a router can offer. It can allow you to wirelessly connect new devices. It can filter the traffic within your home network to ensure that your most-needed requests pass through above everything else. It can let you physically connect more than one system to a typical cable or DSL modem. A lone Ethernet cable provides none of these capabilities.

To answer the question, “Do I need a router,” I say yes. You can get a low-cost wired router for less than $15. That’s hardly breaking the bank for peace of mind and the option to securely extend your network beyond your one computer in the future. Wireless routers cost more, but not so much as to be unaffordable.

In future posts, I’ll walk you through some common use scenarios and how you how various routers D-Link makes can meet your networking needs.

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