What Is an IP Address?

Internet Protocol (IP) was first created in the 1970’s to connect the first computers to each other and allow them to send and receive packets of information. Today, every device that connects to the internet requires an IP address. An example IP address that many people will recognize is:

192.168.0.1

However, that is not really your IP address, it is the IP address your router gives you. (I will explain later)

Every IP address is assigned to an endpoint device (routers, personal computers, tablets, wireless printers, smartphones, or any “smart” device that connects to a network) Basically, an IP address is like a home address; without one, the mailman wouldn’t know where to deliver your packages. Similarly, without an IP address, the network wouldn’t know which end device to deliver all the information from emails, webpages, or any other packets of data.

But did you know that there are different kinds of IP addresses, each of which offer specific benefits to different users? In order to decide which IP address is right for you, it is necessary to understand the basics of IP addressing.

What’s the Difference between a Private and Public Network?

These days, it is your router that usually assigns IP addresses to each of your devices. A router usually creates its own network called a Sub-Network (subnet). These IP addresses assigned by a router are called “internal IPs,” meaning they are only unique within your subnetwork.

Think of it this way, if you have the same name and street address as someone who lives in another town, the mailman still knows which person to deliver the package to, based on the zip codes. Each zip code is like its own subnetwork, where the post office is like your router. So, you can have the same internal IP address as someone else (like 192.168.0.1), if you both belong to a different sub-networks (created by your router).

If you did have the same name and street address as someone in the same zip code, then things would get confusing. The same thing is true for networks. If two endpoints have the same address in the same network, it is called an IP conflict, and no information can be sent or received until the conflict is resolved.

If a network is solely made up of internal IPs, then that network is called a “private network.” Private networks are usually not able to connect to the internet or other networks, so they are usually built with security in mind.

Networks that have an “external IP,” which means that it connects to the internet or another network, are called “public networks.” With an external IP, public network can be hacked, and, once in the network, hackers can infect any connected computers and steal private information. So, if you want an IP that is nearly impossible to hack, you should look into getting a private IP address to protect your most important and secretive information.

What’s the Difference between a Static and Dynamic IP Address?

If you have never dealt with IPs, it means that you were probably assigned one by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). An ISP like Time Warner, Roadrunner, or Comcast usually handles all of your IP issues for you automatically.

You probably never even noticed that your IP address actually changes all the time. That’s because almost all home routers use a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) or a shared IP address. ISPs lease out a lot of IP addresses, but each IP address is only active for a limited time. When the lease expires, your router will automatically assign a new IP address out of the shared pool of IP addresses allocated.

This is why unplugging your router can resolve problems connecting to the internet; when you unplug your router, your ISP assigns you a new IP address dynamically.

ISPs use a dynamic IP address to increase the available number of IPs. Since only a fraction of IPs are connecting to the internet at any given time, the same IP addresses can be used in rotation by different people at different times. As long as it is not being used by two endpoints at the same time, there are no conflicts.

Using shared IP address can make things a lot easier. Since the IP is automatically assigned, you never really have to worry about anything, but if you want to run your own email server or control your IPs for other reasons, a “static IP” might be a better choice.

A static IP is one that does not change, it remains the same for as long as it is owned by the same entity. No one else can have the same IP, which means that if you use it for your website, you can actually type the IP address into the address bar of your browser instead of the website name. In that way, it is actually just a translated version of your URL address.

Buying a “static IP address,” usually only costs a few extra bucks a month. They tend to be reserved for businesses, but anyone can buy one from their ISP at any time.

Which IP Address Is Right for You?

Now that we have an idea about IP addresses, we can discuss which one is right for you.

  • EASE

If you are looking for the easiest solution, using the dynamic IP from your ISP is the least complicated choice.

However, if you do choose to use a static IP address, just know that it’s a major undertaking. Make sure to take the time to test and troubleshoot any problems that might occur.

  • DOWNTIME

With a dynamic connection, every time your IP address refreshes, the server needs to take a moment to find a new IP address, which means that your site will actually go down. Even though it is usually only for fractions of a second, it can add up over time. Having a static address eliminates this from the equation.

  • SSL

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is used by most e-commerce sites to encrypt personal financial info. So, if you are selling something online, it is a very good idea to have an SSL certificate. It used to be required for any sites that accept credit card payments online. Even though it is no longer required, it is still a good idea to have an SSL certificate for those customers who use older browsers not supporting this.

  • REMOTE ACCESS

With a static IP address, you can access your network from anywhere in the world. Using certain programs or an FTP, you can actually log into your home computer or other endpoint device. This is especially helpful for certain devices that need a static IP to connect to your network.

  • RESTRICTED CONTENT

Some countries ban certain IP address for content they deem unfit for their citizens. So, if you are on a shared IP address, you could be grouped in with the other content, and be blocked as well. Even if your content has nothing to do with the reason the IP was banned

So, if you want to make sure your content can be seen everywhere, you would need a dedicated IP.

  • EMAIL REPUTATION

If you have a newsletter or other email campaigns that you send to multiple users, a dynamic IP address can ruin your email reputation. Sharing an IP address means that you might use the same IP as cyber criminals who have ruined the IP’s email reputation, which means the emails from that IP are sent straight to the spam folder. With a static IP, you would never lose out on your readers due to someone else’s reputation.


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