Routers carry more intelligence than bridges. Like a bridge, a router forwards data packets/frames. Routers make forwarding decisions based on the destination network layer address. Whereas a bridge worked on the data-link layer, a router operates at the network-layer level. Routers commonly connect disparate LANs such as CSMA/CD to token ring and FDDI to CSMA/CD.

Routers are addressable nodes in a network. They carry their own MAC address(es) as well as a network address for each protocol handled. Because routers are addressable, a station desiring the facility of a router must direct its packets/frames to the router in question so that the traffic can be forwarded to the appropriate network. As one would expect, networking software at each station is more complex with a network using routers than one using bridges.

Routers handle only traffic addressed to them. They make decisions about forwarding data packets/frames based on one or several criteria. The decisions may be based on the cost of the link, the number of hops on each path, and the time-to-live.

Routers change packets/frames that pass through them such as MAC source and destination address; they may also modify the network protocol header of each frame (typically decrementing the time-to-live in the case of IP and other protocol fields).

Because routers have more intelligence than bridges, routers will typically have better network management agents installed. This enables them to be remotely configured, to be programmed to pass or not to pass data for security purposes, and to be monitored for performance, particularly error performance. Due to the additional processing performed at routers, they tend to be slower than bridges. Reference 9 suggests that some protocols do not lend themselves to routing, such as IBM's SNA and NetBios, among others.

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