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What is an IP address?

Find out what an IP address is.

We all use the Internet daily. Visiting a website or asking smart speakers questions have become part of our lives. Did you know you can only connect to a website or device via an IP address? In this article, you will read what an IP address is and how it works.

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Brief Summary

Glossary

An IP address is a unique set of numbers that identifies a device on a network, such as a computer or a smartphone. It allows devices to communicate with each other and access the internet.

IP address meaning

An IP address is the abbreviation of an Internet Protocol address. An IP address is a unique number associated with any device connected to the Internet. These devices include computers, smartphones, routers, printers and servers. An IP address allows devices to communicate with each other and exchange information over the Internet.

Tip: You can compare an IP address to a home address. You need a home address to send and receive mail.

What is the purpose of an IP address?

IP addresses are essential in everyday life. With them, visiting a website, watching Netflix, printing a document or connecting to smart speakers is possible. Every activity over the Internet involves an IP address.

What does an IP address consist of?

An IP address consists of a numerical string of 4 numbers with a dot in between. Each number is called a byte and is between the numbers 0 and 255. So the IP address directory starts at 0.0.0.0 and ends at 255.255.255.255. The last number of the IP address points to the device (the host) being used. The rest of the numbers refer to the network in which the device operates. This system is called IPv4, Internet Protocol version 4.

From IPv4 to IPv6

Over time, IPv4 addresses have become scarce. This makes sense as the Internet continues to grow. That is why IPv6 is introduced, Internet Protocol version 6. In short, trillions of IP addresses are now available for the Internet. Do you want to know more about the difference between IPv4 and IPv6? Read our article ‘What is IPv6?’. 

How does an IP address work?

The world of IP addresses is very technical. To better understand how an IP address works, below is an example of what happens behind the scenes when you visit a website.

  1. You want to visit your favourite website.
  2. You instruct your web browser to visit this website.
  3. Your browser searches for the website on the Internet by looking for the IP address of the server that runs the website. Meanwhile, the browser takes the IP address of your computer with it so the server can communicate with the computer.
  4. Your browser asks the server if it can share that website’s files with your computer’s IP address.
  5. The server responds to the request, allowing your computer to receive the necessary files and the browser to display the website.

An IP address and a domain name

In the example above, you type the domain name of your favourite website into your browser. But did you know that the domain name is the IP address and points to the server running that website? A domain name is a user-friendly translation of an IP address. A domain name like one.com is easier to remember than the IP address 195.47.247.9. If you have to remember the IP addresses of all your favourite websites, it is difficult to remember them all. That is why domain names have been introduced.

Fact: A computer can not read domain names, only numbers. That is why domain names are converted to IP addresses. The Domain Name System (DNS) take care of this.

Types of IP addresses

Different types of IP addresses exist and can be divided into 3 groups:

  1. Public vs private IP addresses
  2. Dynamic vs static IP addresses
  3. Shared vs dedicated IP addresses

Public vs private IP addresses

You use a public IP address when you connect to the Internet at home. A public IP address is an address any device can see. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns a public IP address to your router, the box that enables internet access at home. Conversely, external devices can find your public IP address to connect to your network.

You can compare a public IP address to a letter you receive. The postman (router) ensures the letter from your mother (external device) is delivered to your home address (public IP address).

Private IP address

A private IP address is associated with a device within your home network. A private address allows a router to send information from the Internet to the correct device or vice versa, for example, to your smartphone. A private IP address is not visible.

In the previous example, you received a letter from your mother (external device) via the postman (router) at your home address (public IP address). Your name is the private IP address. This exchange is called Network Address Translation (NAT).

Dynamic vs static IP addresses

Public IP addresses can be divided into 2 types: dynamic and static. You can read more about them below.

What is a dynamic IP address?

A dynamic IP address is an address your ISP temporarily assigns to your device connecting to the Internet, for example, your smartphone. This address may change over time, for example, if you reconnect to the Internet or the ISP changes the address. IPSs prefer dynamic IP addresses because they are usually cheaper than static IP addresses.

What is a static IP address?

A static IP address is an address for a device that never changes. For companies, a static IP address is functional, for example, when employees want to access the email server from home so they can check their email. Or when you want to check your security cameras for unwanted guests from a holiday location. If the email server or security cameras had a dynamic IP address, you would no longer have access over time. You had to reset the IP address every time.

Shared vs dedicated IP addresses

Finally, there are also shared and dedicated IP addresses. These addresses relate to websites and domain names.

Shared IP address

A shared IP address is an address used by multiple websites. For example, people can reach website 1 via the same IP address as website 2. You often see this situation in shared hosting, a server that is shared with several people.

Pros

  • Affordable because resources are shared
  • Easy to use thanks to ready-to-use software
  • A good reputation thanks to other good websites on the same IP address

Cons

  • Fewer resources are available when 1 website gets more traffic or consumes data
  • Jointly affected in a DDoS attack
  • Bad reputation when the IP address gets blacklisted because of 1 website

Dedicated IP address

A dedicated IP address is an address used by 1 server. On this server, for example, you can run all your websites. This situation often occurs with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or dedicated server.

Pros

  • More control over network and security settings
  • Easier to get an SSL certificate
  • Host your FTP server
  • Website editing via the IP address without having registered a domain name

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Self (technical) maintenance
What is my IP address?
Do you want to know what your network’s IP address is? Type ‘what is my IP’ into Google, and you will see your address. Or use the website Whatismyipaddress.com. Do you want to know the IP address of your website or another website? You can check the address on NsLookup.io.

What IP address do I need for my website?

Are you going to create a website? You must use a static IP address. Your website and email address are linked to the IP address and can continue to be found by external devices connected to the Internet. With a dynamic IP address, you must set this up every time, which could be more efficient. If you are going to host your website, you can assume you will always get a static IP address.

Do you choose to host your website on shared hosting? You will be using a shared IP address. Do you want more freedom and buy a VPS? You will get your dedicated IP address.

Do you want to get started with your website? Buy hosting today at one.com!

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