Applies To: Windows Server 2008

A router is a device that manages the flow of data between network segments, or subnets. A router directs incoming and outgoing packets based on the information it holds about the state of its own network interfaces and a list of possible sources and destinations for network traffic. By projecting network traffic and routing needs based on the number and types of hardware devices and applications used in your environment, you can better decide whether to use a dedicated hardware router, a software-based router, or a combination of both. Generally, dedicated hardware routers handle heavier routing demands best, and less expensive software-based routers are sufficient to handle lighter routing loads.

A software-based routing solution, such as the Routing and Remote Access service in Windows Server® 2008, can be ideal on a small, segmented network with relatively light traffic between subnets. Conversely, enterprise network environments that have a large number of network segments and a wide range of performance requirements might need a variety of hardware-based routers to perform different roles throughout the network.