A routing table is defined as an electronic document containing the various routes to all the nodes within a computer network. These nodes may refer to any type of electronic device connected to the physical network. The routing table is normally stored in a router or in a specific computer in the network. This document is in the form of a database file containing pieces of information organized in a particular structure.
The main function of the routing table is to provide information and reference when a node in the network needs to transfer data to another node within the same network. Once the routing table is informed that a device will send data, the table searches for the best route for the data. After finding the best route, the table gives the device details regarding the route.
Another more specific application of the routing table involves a process known as hop-by-hop routing. In this type of routing procedure, the address of each node leading to the destination is listed. The routing table is used by the data packet to determine the first node to go to from the source of the data. Once the data packet has reached that node, it will refer again to the routing table for the next node. This process will be repeated until the data packet has reached the target destination.
Routing tables need to be consistent. Especially in large networks with many nodes and routers, the routing tables should have the same details and addresses contained in them. This ensures that data is safe from loops wherein they transfer from one node to another without reaching the intended destination.