Learn How IP Routing Works

What is IP Routing?

IP Routing describes the process of determining the path for data to follow in order to navigate from one computer or server to another. A packet of data traverses from its source router through a web of routers across many networks until it finally reaches its destination router using a routing algorithm. The routing algorithm takes into account factors such as the size of a packet and its header to determine the most efficient route to the destination. When a packet has reached a router, the source and destination address of the packet are used in conjunction with a routing table (list that contains the routes to a certain network) to determine the next hop address. This process is repeated for the next router using its own routing table until the packet has reached its destination. Because the data is divided into packets, each packet travels independently from each other and is treated as such. As a result, each packet can be sent through a different route to the destination if necessary.

You can think of IP routing similarly to many other forms of routing, such as call routing through telephone lines, or even routing a path for a destination using a motor vehicle. We determine which path would be the best path for us to take in order to get to our destination most quickly and efficiently. Whether it’s sending an important business email or browsing the web for fun, TCP/IP and IP routing are an integral part of all information transfer over the internet. So how is data passed through the internet, and how does IP Routing work?

How IP Routing Works – Understanding TCP/IP?

TCP/IP, also known as Internet Protocol Suite, is a collection of communication protocols that use the internet to send and receive data. A protocol is a set of rules that computers use to communicate with one another, and internet communication is founded on the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). Each perform a different step in the process of transferring data. TCP prepares the data by breaking it down into smaller pieces of information called “packets” while also defining and maintaining the network connection. IP deals with the sending and delivering of the packets from one computer or server to another using a web of routers in a process known as IP Routing. Once the packets reach their destination, it is the job of TCP to reform them into their original state. 

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How IP Routing Works – Understanding IP Address - IPv4 Convention

In order for the packets to be sent to the right location, the router needs to know the location of both the source and destination IP address, a unique 32 bit label assigned to one’s device. This address is split into sections of four 8-bit sections separated by a dot (.) from 0 to 255. This makes the full range of an IP address to The 32 bits are divided into two categories: a prefix and a suffix. The prefix identifies the network to which the computer is attached. For example, an organization may reserve a designated IP address, such as The suffix is a unique identifier for the computer on the network. For example: The size of each suffix and prefix is dependent on the class of the IP address.

How IP Routing Works – Understanding IP Address - IPv6 Convention

Due to the growth of the internet and billions of new devices connected to the internet, a new version of IP addressing (IPv6) is now being widely used. This new version uses 128 bits instead of the previous (IPv4) 32 bits. This increases the amount of unique addresses and, as a result, unique devices that can be connected to the internet. The 128 bit number is converted to binary then split into eight 16-bit sections which is finally converted into hexadecimal form and separated by ‘:’. There are some special rules that IPv6 allows to make the address shorter. For example, two consecutive sections containing only zeros can be replaced by ‘::’ and any leading zeros can be omitted.

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