Access point (AP) software allows several computers in a local area network (LAN) to share a single Internet connection. This type of software creates a virtual network connection using a central computer as a gateway. Some types of access point software are web-based and can be used on mobile computing devices, while others create virtual routers through a computer connected to a cable modem. The majority of software applications create a temporary wireless access point or virtual router.
Computers that are already connected through a local area network can use access point software to route Internet traffic through a single connection. Laptops that use wireless technology can connect to the Internet through the LAN connection. For example, a school teacher whose laptop is part of a local domain server can connect to the Internet through the server when the laptop is being used in a remote location. Encryption and authentication are typically major components of this type of access point software.
Home users who may have a virtual LAN set up between two or three computers might employ a type of software to share Internet access. Virtual AP software converts one of the computers in a LAN into a wireless access point that a laptop can use. Instead of establishing a physical connection between both computers into a modem or router, one machine can virtually piggyback on the physical connection of the other. Access point software will typically allow users to specify the communication port and access specifications that will be used.
Web-based software allows any laptop to become a wireless bridge or hotspot for other machines. The software may have minimum operating system requirements. A specific programming language application may also be required. Once Internet connection sharing is enabled within the computer's operating system, laptops equipped with wireless technology can use the Internet by connecting to the computer.
Other types of software create a virtual router for computers equipped with certain operating systems. A number of wireless enabled devices may be able to share a single Internet connection through this type of software application. For example, if an individual has a laptop, smart phone, and MP3 player, he may be able to use the same bandwidth connection on all of these devices. Some simple access point software is provided at no cost, while other types are more sophisticated and include encryption technology.
Corporations that may have server software installed on a large number of computers might create virtual routers on an enterprise scale. Some applications allow encryption features to be turned on and off, while other versions constantly maintain encryption. This is often demonstrated when unauthorized users attempt to access secured wireless networks and are prompted for a password or network name.