Hot Standby Router Protocol (HSRP) is a routing protocol that allows host computers on the Internet to use multiple routers that act as a single virtual router, maintaining connectivity even if the first hop router fails, because other routers are on "hot standby" - ready to go. Configured on Cisco routers running the Internet Protocol (IP) over Ethernet, Fiber Distributed-Data Interface (FDDI), and token ring local area networks (LANs), HSRP provides automatic router backup. The protocol is fully compatible with Novell's Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX), AppleTalk, and Banyan VINES, and (in some configurations) with Xerox Network Systems (XNS) and DECnet.
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Developed by Cisco and specified in IETF Request for Comments (RFC) 2281, HSRP ensures that only a single router (called the active router) is forwarding packets on behalf of the virtual router at any given time. A standby router is chosen to be ready to become the active router, in the event that the current active router fails. HSRP defines a mechanism used to determine active and standby routers by referring to their IP addresses. Once these are determined, the failure of an active router will not cause any significant interruption of connectivity.
On any given LAN, there may be multiple, possibly overlapping, hot standby groups, each with a single Media Access Control (MAC) address and IP address; the IP address should belong to the primary subnet, but must be different from any actual or virtual addresses allocated to any routers or hosts on the network.