Hot Standby Router Protocol (HSRP) is a Cisco proprietary redundancy protocol for establishing a fault-tolerant default gateway.
The protocol establishes a framework between network devices in order to achieve default gateway failover if the primary gateway becomes inaccessible. By sharing an IP address and a MAC (Layer 2) address, two or more devices can act as a single virtual router. The members of a virtual router group continually exchange status messages and one device can assume the routing responsibility of another, should it go out of commission for either planned or unplanned reasons. Hosts continue to forward IP packets to a consistent IP and MAC addres,s and the changeover of devices doing the routing is transparent.
HSRP is useful for hosts that do not support a router discovery protocol and cannot switch to a new device when their selected device reloads or loses power. Because existing TCP sessions can survive the failover, this protocol also provides a more transparent recovery for hosts that dynamically choose a next hop for routing IP traffic.
When HSRP is configured on a network segment, it provides a virtual MAC address and an IP address that is shared among a group of devices running HSRP. The address of this HSRP group is referred to as the virtual IP address. One of these devices is selected by the protocol to be the active router (AR). The AR receives and routes packets destined for the MAC address of the group.
HSRP uses a priority mechanism to determine which HSRP configured device is to be the default AR. To configure a device as the AR, you assign it a priority that is higher than the priority of all the other HSRP-configured devices. The default priority is 100, so if you configure just one device to have a higher priority, that device will be the default AR.
Devices that are running HSRP send and receive multicast User Datagram Protocol (UDP)-based hello messages to detect device failure and to designate active and standby devices. When the AR fails to send a hello message within a configurable period of time, the standby device with the highest priority becomes the AR. The transition of packet forwarding functions between devices is completely transparent to all hosts on the network.
You can configure multiple Hot Standby groups on an interface, thereby making fuller use of redundant devices and load sharing.
HSRP is not a routing protocol as it does not advertise IP routes or affect the routing table in any way.
HSRP has the ability to trigger a failover if one or more interfaces on the device fail. This can be useful for dual branch devices each with a single serial link back to the head end. If the serial link of the primary device goes down, the backup device takes over the primary functionality and thus retains connectivity to the head end.