What Is An IP Address?

Have you ever wondered what exactly an IP address is? What differentiates IPv4 from IPv6? Do you need to know the difference between static IP vs dynamic IP? Furthermore, what is an IP address used for? We can answer all your questions in this easy-to-understand article that explains everything you need to know about IP addresses.

What Is An IP Address?

The term "IP address" stands for Internet Protocol Address. In simple terms, it's a unique number assigned to all Internet-connected devices such as printers, routers, modems, and even refrigerators.

The address identifies and allows these devices the ability to communicate with each other on an internal or external computer network. Any device that transmits or receives Internet traffic gets an IP address.

Essentially, it provides the location of the device that you are using to connect to the Internet. When you select and connect to a network, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns an IP address to each Internet-connected device. The IP address system is governed by the TCP/IP, or the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.

Your IP address works, theoretically, as a digital version of your home address. In order for you to receive snail mail, the sending party must have your correct mailing address (your IP address). If any of the mailing information is incorrect, you do not receive bills, pizza coupons, or your tax refund.

What Is My Public IP Address?

Your public IP address is the Internet Protocol address that is logged by various servers/devices when you connect to them through your internet connection. This is the same IP address that we show on our homepage.

So why the different name?

Well, not everyone speaks the language of IP addresses so we want to make it as simple as possible for everyone to find the information they need. Some even refer to this as their external IP address.

Again, it's the same IP we show on our homepage just referred to as something different. Sort of like thingamajig.

Two devices with the same public or external IP address cannot exist on the internet. This addressing scheme has the ability for each of the devices to locate each other while online and ultimately exchange information. You really have no control over the Internet Protocol address assigned to each of your devices. Internet Service Providers ISPs) assign a public IP address as soon as the device gets Internet connection.

How Is This Used When Connecting to Internet

Like a postal address used to deliver a postal mail to your home, a public Internet Protocol address is the globally unique Internet Protocol address assigned to a computing device. A web server, email server and any server device directly accessible from the Internet are candidates for a public Internet Protocol address. A public Internet Protocol address is globally unique, and only assigned to a unique device.

The are two types of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses: Public and Private. We've defined above what a public IP address is, but to clarify, a private one is assigned to devices within your private space without letting them be directly exposed to the Internet.

Terms To Know

  • Public IP and Private IP Addresses. Your ISP assigns public IPs for connection to the Internet. Your ISP also assigns the device an internal or private IP when connecting to public WiFi. Private IPs communicate locally within your home network.
  • Static IP and Dynamic IP Addresses. IP addresses are either static or dynamic. A static IP is manually assigned and never changes. A dynamic IP, on the other hand, is assigned by the network that changes every so often, depending on the lease time.
  • Lease Time. This is how long it takes for your dynamic IP address to expire. After the "lease" expires, a new one is conclusively assigned.

IPv4 vs. IPv6 Addresses

Currently, ISPs assign two versions of IP address: IPv4 and IPv6. Your public IP will be displayed on our homepage either in IPv4 or IPv6 format, and in some cases, both.

What Is IPv4?

IPv4 stands for "IP version 4." IPv4 addresses are 32 bit and written out using hexadecimal. Because of the four sections to each IPv4 address, they're referred to as dotted quads. And because each section is 8 bits, individual sections are referred to as octets.

Each octet contains a number from 0-255 and is separated by a decimal, like so: 92.168.1.1. There are exactly 4,294,967,296 IPv4 addresses that can be assigned.

IPv4 addresses have the same use as any others. They are still heavily in use today, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. However, version 4 is becoming outdated. Eventually, version 6 will supersede it.

Though IPv4 is currently used by most network devices, the increasing number of computers attached to the Internet means that IPv4 address space is running out. You've probably seen internal IPs like 192.168.1.100 with a subnet mask setting of 255.255.255.0 in your router settings or other WiFi connected devices.

IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) lists all current IPv4 assignments on their website.

What Is IPv6?

IPv6 replaces the out-of-date IPv4. An IPv6 address consists of 8 groups of four hexadecimal digits (0-9 and a-f) separated by colons, as so: 2600:1005:b062:61e4:74d7:f292:802c:fbfd. If one of the groups only contains zeros, omit that group.

One example of an IPv6 address format is 2600:1005:b062:0000:74d7:f292:802c:fbfd, which can be rewritten as 2600:1005:b062::74d7:f292:802c:fbfd, omitting the fourth group since it's made up entirely of zeros.

Mathematically, IPv6 will provide 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 IP addresses. That number breaks down like this:

340 (undecillion), 282 (decillion), 366 (nonillion), 920 (octillion), 938 (septillion), 463 (quintillion), 374 (quadrillion), 607 (trillion), 431 (billion), 768 (million), 211 (thousand), 456 (hundred).

Written out, the number is massive; it reads:

Three hundred and forty undecillion, two hundred and eighty-two decillion, three hundred and sixty-six nonillion, nine hundred and twenty octillion, nine hundred and thirty-eight septillion, four hundred and sixty-three sextillion, four hundred and sixty-three quintillion, three hundred and seventy-four quadrillion, six hundred and seven trillion, four hundred and thirty-one billion, seven hundred and sixty-eight million, two hundred and eleven thousand, four hundred and fifty-six.

However, with the visually more complicated Internet Protocol version 6, we should be good on addresses until we start mingling with other galaxies.

Commonly-Asked Questions on IPv4 and IPv6

What is the difference between IPv4 and IPv6?

An IPv4 example of a private IP address is 192.168.100.100. Though new IPv6 addresses appear differently, all ways mean the same.

  • 1080:0000:0000:0000:0000:0034:0000:417A
  • 1080:0:0:0:0:34:0:417A
  • 1080::34:0:417A

IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) lists all current IPv6 assignments on their website.

Is it wise to enable IPv6?

Yes. Since its introduction on June 6th, 2012, now known annually as IPv6 Day, devices have started ramping up to be compatible. According to the Internet Society, in 2018 IPv6 became the dominating Internet Protocol.

Are IPv6 speeds superior to IPv4 speeds?

Users have performed their own tests and found IPv6 to run noticeably faster than IPv4. As a matter of fact, gamers are finding IPv6 to be the preferred protocol for the fastest possible connection.

If your device allows, turn on IPv6. However, no official test results exist. That means you'll need to do your own testing after obtaining an IPv6 to see if your connection is faster.

Static IP vs. Dynamic IP Addresses

There are two kinds of IP address assignments: static and dynamic. Whether it's better for you to have a static or dynamic IP address depends on your connection needs.

What Is A Static IP?

In short, a static IP remains stable and does not change. The ISP assigns a static IP address to a device, and it stays the same for the life of the device.

If you have a device or computer and connect to the Internet, it will always have an IP address. You get a static IP address through your Internet Service Provider. They will usually offer a business account or advanced residential account that comes with a single static IP or a block of static IPs.

For businesses that host their own website on a web server or DNS servers, a static IP address is the best option. They even have the advantage when remote workers log into work via a VPN. Consumers are usually fine with dynamic IP addresses.

Some advantages of a static IP address are security and easy remote access. Communication is usually hassle-free, and you have the ability for simple server hosting.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to using a static IP address. They are expensive for the owner because they usually require a business account with your ISP. The setup is difficult and complex initially, and if the static IP assigned to you is blacklisted, email may not get through to the recipient. It's not always possible to to get your IP removed from a blacklist without support from the ISP.

What Is A Dynamic IP?

A dynamic IP is one that could change at any time. Your ISP or DHCP server issues you the IP address from a pool of potential addresses. This is for a large number of customers that do not require the same IP address all the time for a variety of reasons.

However, your computer will automatically get this number as it logs on to the network. That saves you the trouble of having to know details regarding the specific network configurations. A dynamic IP will not always change, though. It depends on how the ISP has the IP address lease times and assignments set up.

When a device is assigned a dynamic IP address, it is exactly that: dynamic. It could change frequently or not change at all. Dynamic IP changes depend on how the DHCP server assigned the IP address. Most devices use dynamic IP addresses, but some are better off using static IP addresses.

One advantage of a dynamic IP is that they come with a standard Internet service account. On the downside, they are the less flexible options for remote access capabilities, and are not easy for hosting sites or files.

Is Mine Static or Dynamic?

It is easy to check if you have a static address or a dynamic address. The steps you should follow will differ depending on the kind of computer you have. Read below to find out how to check which address you have for both Windows and Mac computers.

With a Windows computer:
Type ipconfig /all within a command prompt
Find the “DHCP Enabled” text and if NO you have a static IP address and if YES you have a dynamic IP address.

With a Mac computer:
Under system preferences, select Network and then “Advanced”, then go to TCP/IP. Under “Configure IPv4,” if you see MANUALLY, you have a static address. If you see USING DHCP, you have a dynamic address.

There is one exception. If your ISP assigns your IP via your hardware's Mac address and has an address reserved for that device, then your device will always get the same one from the DHCP server even if DHCP is enabled.

Commonly-Asked Questions on Static and Dynamic IP Addresses

Which is better, a static or a dynamic IP address? Neither address is inherently better or worse. It all depends on your needs. Your ISP assigns the address to each device and each device must have one to connect to the internet.

Does a dynamic IP provide better security online? A dynamic IP doesn't provide a safer Internet experience than a static IP. It's more convenient if you're trying to change your IP address.

However, if you're using a dynamic IP to try and hide your activities on the internet, your ISP keeps logs and will know exactly who the IP was assigned to when activities happened. In this case, hiding your IP with TOR or a VPN will suit your needs better.

Conclusion

To summarize, if you don’t really rely on a constant IP address, you can have the advantages of using dynamic. However, if you have a business with a website or Internet service and it's best not to have any interruptions, then a static IP would be the best choice. But both static and dynamic IP addresses serve the same purpose: they allow communication between devices across a network.