What Is A Gateway?

The internet is basically just a vast web of pathways and destinations stored on a virtual cloud, which basically makes it a virtual world separate from our own.

What is a gateway?

Since this virtual world only came into existence about 30 years ago, ways to navigate it and built within it are still being discovered or improved upon.

With so much information flying around on the internet at any one time, navigation of this system is absolutely key. This is why multiple different tools and pathways have been implemented to allow for this to happen.

The problem is that some of this massive web of information can be quite confusing. For example, gateways. In the real world, we know exactly what gateways are, but what are they on the internet? What exactly do they do?

What Is A Gateway?

So, for this question, we will give a long and short answer. The short answer is that a gateway is a piece of hardware or software designed for networking that is used in telecommunication to allow for data to move from one network to another discreetly.

The long answer is that a gateway is one piece of a hardware or software networking system that is used in the telecommunications field and industry to allow for the interaction of devices between one another to allow for discrete data flow.

Gateways are slightly more complex than what a router or switch would be, as they can use more than one protocol and communicate between multiple different networks.

A good example of a gateway would be the modem that you use at home for your family internet. You probably have one modem, but there are multiple devices using it: laptops, TVs, tablets, phones, and many more.

This gateway allows you to connect to the internet through it, and the ISP (internet service provider) on the other controls your data traffic through it.

The computer-server that controls the gateway for your ISP will usually use a firewall and a proxy server to keep your network and computer safe as well.

A firewall will keep anything that isn’t approved or a part of your network out – like viruses or, god forbid, other people – and the proxy server will be in between your computer and your computer-server, making sure any requests you give the computer server can be managed by said server.

Why Do We Use Gateways?

There are several reasons to use gateways, and probably the most important is safety. A gateway will only allow access to the ISP and network if the right code or instruction is put in.

To go back to the modem example, you can not access your home internet network, unless you put in the IP address and the password on the back of that specific modem.

In order to access the internet network without these, you have to get through the gateway, the firewall, and – to a much lesser degree – the proxy server.

Even then, if you are trying to access a specific computer or cloud storage account, you have to somehow get past the user installed security measures, like anti-viruses.

Obviously, this is a formidable defense for any type of internet raider to breach, and it is really not worth the effort a lot of the time. As you can imagine, this is incredibly useful for businesses.

What is a gateway?

Often, businesses will have their own internet provider or an intranet provider and having it secured behind a gateway, will keep your clients and their information safe.

Another reason to use gateways is logistics. A gateway will limit the amount of data traveling through it to a manageable level. Say, you are uploading a big file to your cloud storage, and it is taking its sweet time to get done, the gateway is the thing slowing it down.

This is because if it doesn’t, your computer might crash. So, the gateway stifles the flow to be manageable. It is better to have a slow upload than no upload at all.

Finally, gateways help monitor changes and controls for the client’s network. The gateway will collect data that passes through it and monitor the client’s actions, with the idea being it will run other tasks in the background to keep the network safe.

For example, if the client goes on a website that is unsafe for the network, then the gateway would inform the firewall, which would raise and stop the client entering before something happened.

Differences Between A Gateway And A Router

The main difference between a gateway and a router is how they manage data. A router is normally a device or a piece of hardware that is in charge of receiving data, before processing it and sending the data packet out to other networks.

Whereas a gateway is a gate between different networks, allowing for the transit of data through it. Due to its function as a gate and the size of the networks it deals with, a gateway is more complex than a router.

This is due to the fact that routers only transmit data from one network to another, whereas a gateway may have to manage and control data passing through it to multiple networks.

This will require that a gateway has a lot of background functions to deal with a number of other different circumstances, like viruses, connection problems, data problems, and more, whereas a router only has to deal with data packets.

As you can see, gateways are massively more important and more useful than routers and provide us with a safety net for our internet exploring

Conclusion

A gateway is an important portal between different internet networks and can control the passage of data from one network to another for multiple different networks.

Its functions mean it is indispensable for the management of data, the safety of the client network, and the function of the client’s internet as a whole.

While gateways may seem complex, it is not something you really have to worry about unless you are the internet service provider.  

Justin Shaw
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