How network routing works

network traffic

Network routing is an essential aspect of modern communication. Whether you’re sending an email, streaming a video, or browsing the web, network routing plays a critical role in ensuring your data gets to its destination quickly and efficiently. In this blog post, we’ll explore how network routing works, from the basics of packet switching to the algorithms that determine the optimal path for your data.

Packet Switching

At the heart of network routing is the concept of packet switching. When you send data over a network, that data is broken up into smaller packets, each of which contains a portion of the original message, as well as addressing information that tells the network where the packet should be sent. These packets are then sent individually through the network, with each packet following its own path to its destination.

The advantage of packet switching is that it allows multiple packets to travel through the network at the same time, without waiting for previous packets to arrive at their destination. This means that networks can be more efficient, as packets can take different paths through the network to avoid congestion and delays.

Routing Algorithms

So how does a network know which path to send each packet on? This is where routing algorithms come in. There are several different types of routing algorithms, but they all share the same goal: to determine the best path for a packet to take through the network.

One common routing algorithm is shortest path routing. This algorithm works by calculating the shortest path between the source and destination nodes in the network, based on the number of hops (i.e., intermediate nodes) between them. Shortest path routing is simple and efficient, but it doesn’t take into account factors like network congestion or the quality of the individual links in the network.

Another routing algorithm is link-state routing. In this algorithm, each node in the network maintains a complete map of the network topology, including the quality of the links between nodes. When a packet needs to be routed, each node uses this map to calculate the optimal path for the packet, based on factors like link quality and congestion.

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)

In addition to internal routing algorithms, many networks also use an external routing protocol called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). BGP is used to exchange routing information between different autonomous systems (i.e., networks operated by different organizations). BGP allows networks to advertise their available routes to other networks, and to select the best path for traffic that needs to cross between networks.

BGP is a complex protocol that takes into account a wide variety of factors, including network topology, link quality, and policies set by network operators. As a result, BGP routing decisions can be influenced by a variety of factors, some of which may not be immediately apparent to end users.


In conclusion, network routing is a critical component of modern communication. By breaking up data into smaller packets and sending them along optimal paths through the network, routing algorithms help ensure that your data gets to its destination quickly and efficiently. Whether you’re sending an email, streaming a video, or browsing the web, network routing plays a crucial role in keeping you connected to the world around you.