What Is Routing and Remote Access?

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.

Remote access

By configuring Routing and Remote Access to act as a remote access server, you can connect remote or mobile workers to your organization's networks. Remote users can work as if their computers are physically connected to the network.

All services typically available to a LAN-connected user (including file and print sharing, Web server access, and messaging) are enabled by means of the remote access connection. For example, on a server running Routing and Remote Access, clients can use Windows Explorer to make drive connections and to connect to printers. Because drive letters and universal naming convention (UNC) names are fully supported by remote access, most commercial and custom applications work without modification.

A server running Routing and Remote Access provides two different types of remote access connectivity:

  • Virtual private networking (VPN)

    VPN is the creation of secured, point-to-point connections across a private network or a public network such as the Internet. A VPN client uses special TCP/IP-based protocols called tunneling protocols to make a virtual call to a virtual port on a VPN server. The best example of virtual private networking is that of a VPN client that makes a VPN connection to a remote access server that is connected to the Internet. The remote access server answers the virtual call, authenticates the caller, and transfers data between the VPN client and the corporate network.

    In contrast to dial-up networking, VPN is always a logical, indirect connection between the VPN client and the VPN server over a public network, such as the Internet. To ensure privacy, you must encrypt data sent over the connection.

    For more information, see What Is VPN?.

  • Dial-up networking

    In dial-up networking, a remote access client makes a nonpermanent, dial-up connection to a physical port on a remote access server by using the service of a telecommunications provider, such as analog phone or ISDN. The best example of dial-up networking is that of a dial-up networking client that dials the phone number of one of the ports of a remote access server.

    Dial-up networking over an analog phone or ISDN is a direct physical connection between the dial-up networking client and the dial-up networking server. You can encrypt data sent over the connection, but it is not required.

    For more information, see What Is Dial-Up Networking?.

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