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Understanding Routed Networks

Routers are responsible for determining the path of routed packets and for actually routing the packets to the appropriate subnet. Routers can have multiple LAN and WAN interfaces, and each interface is used as a connecting point to a different subnet on the network.

So, the routing process really involves the “intelligent” transfer of IP data packets from one segment to another. Depending on the number of network devices and the complexity of the network design (meaning the number of subnets), the actual implementation of routing can become very complicated. There may be many different paths that a packet can actually take to get to its final host destination. However, routers contain routing tables that list the possible routes by which packets delivered to the router can be sent.

By the Way

When you configure IP network clients with a default gateway setting (in the TCP/IP properties), you are usually entering the IP address of a router’s LAN interface. Used in conjunction with the subnet mask assigned to the client (either entered statically or provided through DHCP), the default gateway instructs the local computer to send packets not destined for the local subnet to the router, which routes the packets to the appropriate subnet.

Routers can use either dynamic routing or static routing to route packets. Dynamic routing is handled by a routing protocol (RIP—the Routing Information Protocol—is an example of a routing protocol). Routing protocols build and maintain routing tables that determine the network topology for your internetwork. Dynamic routing is a good idea if your network topology may change. The routing protocol can respond to changes in the LAN or WAN connections and can update the routing table appropriately.

Static routing is handled by the network administrator (meaning you). Routes are actually manually entered on the router and are used to determine how packets are routed on the network. Static routing is fine when the network topology is very constant and consistent. Any change in network connections requires the administrator to re-enter the static routes.

The Routing and Remote Access Server (RRAS) provided by Windows Server 2008 can be configured for both dynamic and static routing. To take advantage of the RRAS features such as routing, you need to install the Network Policy and Access Services role and Routing and Remote Access Services.

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