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What Is Routing? Definition, Functions, Types & Examples

Last updated: Mar 31, 2024

What Is Routing? Definition, Functions, Types & Examples
Cover image: Illustration of routing to send or forward data.

What is Routing? 

Routing is the process of determining the route to send or forward data from one point in a network to another through the Internet.

Additionally, routing can also be interpreted as a way to transmit an internet network to another network.

In essence, the main purpose of routing is to find the best path for data packets to reach their destination quickly and efficiently.

This data generally contains information about the source and destination. When data packets are sent from the source, the process needs to pass through several networks, such as routers and gateways.

A router is a device that connects two or more computer networks and helps direct data packets to other routers until they reach the final destination.

In this process, the router will use IP addresses to determine the destination for sending data packets.

Routing Function

Now that you know what is routing, you must understand that this process is crucial to ensure accurate and efficient data delivery.

Some of the routing functions are as follows:

1. Determining the Best Path

The primary routing function is to assist in determining the best path or optimal route for delivering data packets from the source to the destination.

To support this effort, the process involves the use of algorithms to choose a path based on specific criteria such as speed and cost.

2. Optimizing Network Usage

Routing allows the optimization of network usage by selecting the best path to avoid congestion or network failures.

This means that routing functions also include selecting alternative routes if the main route experiences disruptions based on the current network conditions.

3. Improving Data Transmission Efficiency

Routing enables the transmission of data packets through the most ideal paths. With the help of routing, you can maximize network bandwidth, allowing data delivery processes to occur more quickly.

4. Load Balancing

Rooting can also unleash distribution across various routes to prevent congestion in network traffic caused by data overload.

How Routing Works?

Now that you understand what is routing and its functions in network traffic, it's time to learn how routing works. Here's the detailed explanation.

How routing works is essentially similar to how a train operates. Before deciding to board a train, you must likely review its schedule first to determine the route and the best time, right?

Likewise, before the data transmission process takes place, a router will refer to an internal routing table to decide the best way to send data packets.

The routing table typically records the paths that data packets must take to reach each destination.

When a router receives a data packet, it reads the datagram header within the packet to determine the destination of the packet.

After that, based on the information in the routing table and the datagram, the router determines where to send the packet.

Routing Types

According to Cloudflare, several routing types can be used to determine routes in a network. Here is an explanation of each type:

1. Default Routing

Default routing is a routing type used when a router does not have a specific path to deliver data to its destination. The characteristics of default routing are as follows:

  • If the destination address in the data packet is not explicitly stated, the packet will be forwarded to the default gateway.
  • This type helps reduce the size of the routing table.
  • Generally used in small networks with a single gateway to keep the configuration process simple.

2. Static Routing

Static routing is a type of static or non-adaptive routing to determine paths in network traffic. Here are its characteristics:

  • The static routing process typically uses a routing table with only one entry for each destination.
  • This type also requires less computational time compared to dynamic routing because each route has been configured in advance.
  • Static routing cannot adapt to changes in the network, especially in the case of link failures or connection switches.
  • It is too complex to manage in large networks with many routes.

3. Dynamic Routing

Dynamic routing is the type that allows routers to dynamically choose routes based on network topology conditions. Here are the characteristics:

  • Supports real-time updates to the routing table in case of network topology changes or failures.
  • This type of routing can be updated without manual intervention as routers are more adaptive to changes.
  • Tends to use larger network resources to support complex performance.

Types of Routing Algorithms

Only knowing what is routing is not enough. You should also need to understand the various algorithms implemented in the routing process. 

1. Adaptive Algorithms

These algorithms can change decisions whenever there is a change in network traffic or topology. Adaptive algorithms are divided into three types:

  • Isolate: Allows each node to make decisions independently without information from other nodes.
  • Centralized: An adaptive algorithm with a centralized node that only requires one node to store all information from the entire network.
  • Distributed: Can receive information from outside nodes and can calculate and consider routes with the lowest cost.

2. Nonadaptive Algorithms

The characteristic of these algorithms in the routing process is that they cannot accept or make changes after the destination route is selected. Nonadaptive algorithms are divided into two types:

  • Flooding: A nonadaptive routing algorithm that employs a technique allowing node duplication in the reception of data packets.
  • Random Walk: Sent directly from host to host to one type of network randomly.

Routing Examples

To further grasp the concept of what is routing and some of its examples, let's explore several explanations below. 

1. Internet Routing 

Internet routing is a routing example that requires high-level cooperation between many routers and networks. 

For instance, when a user opens a website, data packets from their device are routed through the internet to reach the destination server.

2. VPN Routing

Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an example of routing that can create an encrypted path between user devices and the end server. 

Therefore, this routing example can be used to securely connect user locations to a private network. 

In VPN implementation, the router acts as a gateway to direct data traffic through an encrypted connection, often using security protocols like IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) or SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security).

3. LAN Routing

Local Area Network (LAN) is a concrete example of routing on a smaller scale, typically within an organization or company. 

LAN routing enables data transmission between various departments or units within the local network. In this context, routers act as connectors between different LAN segments or subnets.

4. Quality of Service (QoS) Routing

This routing example can manage and prioritize network traffic based on specific criteria, such as transmission speed and latency. QoS routing is particularly helpful in supporting services that require high-quality connections.

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