In mathematics, computer science, and related subjects, an algorithm is a finite sequence of steps expressed for solving a problem. An algorithm can be defined as “a process that performs some sequence of operations in order to solve a given problem”. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and many other fields.
In computing, algorithms are essential because they serve as the systematic procedures that computers require. A good algorithm is like using the right tool in the workshop. It does the job with the right amount of effort.
Three reasons for using algorithms are efficiency, abstraction and reusability.
Certain types of problems, like sorting, occur often in computing. Efficient algorithms must be used to solve such problems considering the time and cost factor involved in each algorithm.
Algorithms provide a level of abstraction in solving problems because many seemingly complicated problems can be distilled into simpler ones for which well-known algorithms exist. Once we see a more complicated problem in a simpler light, we can think of the simpler problem as just an abstraction of the more complicated one. For example, imagine trying to find the shortest way to route a packet between two gateways in an internet. Once we realize that this problem is just a variation of the more general shortest path problem, we can solve it using the generalised approach.
Algorithms are often reusable in many different situations. Since many well-known algorithms are the generalizations of more complicated ones, and since many complicated problems can be distilled into simpler ones, an efficient means of solving certain simpler problems potentially lets us solve many complicated problems.