What is an IP Address?

Contributor, Benzinga

What is an IP Address?

Are you familiar with the concept of an IP address? If you’re not sure what the term means, it’s still highly likely that you’ve seen an IP address before.

You’ve probably stumbled upon a string of numbers separated by dots on your computer. Maybe you couldn’t tell what they were but you knew that they were still important. 

That’s an IP address! IP addresses are an important aspect of online operations and functions. In this article, we will show you why an IP address is important. 

How Does an IP Address Work?

Think of your local post office. You can sign up for a mailbox that comes with a unique number. This number is what the postal services use to identify the recipients and the senders of pieces of mail. The internet also has a similar identification system that uses IP addresses.

IP stands for internet protocol. So, an IP address is an identification number assigned to a particular computer or network of computers. Just like the postal mailing system, an IP address is what the internet uses to determine where information is being sent and who receives it.

IP addresses operate in accordance with two standards: the IPV4 and the IPV6. The IPV4 is the first and earliest standard that the internet was made to operate on, which accommodates around 4 billion addresses. 

However, there are far more than 4 billion IP addresses out there nowadays. As such, the IPV6 was created as a way of accommodating all of the IP addresses that the IPV4 cannot manage. 

The IPV6 provides more room for addresses that surpass the IPV4’s threshold of 4 billion. This way, the internet can continue to grow and expand, making it possible for there to be an infinite number of platforms for development.

How Do We Use an IP Address?

In a nutshell, the internet is a network of machines that are all connected in a virtual space. And anyone in the world can connect to the internet as long as they have the necessary equipment. 

You can send almost anything over the internet. It’s also possible to receive just about anything from other people online, too. 

What an IP address does is mark and define where the connections are online, thanks to the tracking of unique numbers. Without IP addresses, all of the information that we send and receive online would be lost in virtual space. 

Think about it. What would happen if the same letters and packages continued to arrive on your doorstep or in your mailbox when they were meant for someone who is six hundred miles away? That would not be pleasant. 

To solve this potential issue online, internet service providers assign a unique identification address to everyone with internet access. This way, information intended for you will reach you, and the same goes for everyone else. 

An IP address is akin to a return address for all of the activity you perform online. You can also send information to other IP addresses on the internet. When the people behind those IP addresses respond to you online, your conversations won’t be lost because you are communicating via specific addresses, just like when you mail someone a letter.

IP addresses are associated with every electronic device. They are an integral part of the way we live and communicate nowadays. You may be wondering if this strange number is something that you should write down or keep in your memory for future use. 

The answer is no because there’s simply no need to memorize your IP address. Plus, certain types of IP addresses change every so often, so you’d have to keep memorizing new IP addresses over time. 

How Do I Locate My IP Address? 

There are many apps that can help you locate your IP address, including Electron VPN, Network Analyser, IP Locator, IP Address Tracker, and My IP Address. You can also manually find your IP address on your desktop, Apple devices, or Android phone. 

To locate your IP on your desktop:

  • Open the Start menu on your computer. 
  • Then, right-click on “Network.”
  • Click on “Properties.”
  • To the right of “Wireless Network Connection,” click on “View Status.”
  • Click on “Details” to access your IP address. 

To locate your IP address on your Apple device:

  • Go to the Apple menu. 
  • Click on “System Preferences” and then “Network.” 
  • Select the mode of connection that you use, whether that’s Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable.
  • Your IP address will be displayed under the status update regarding your connection. 

To locate your IP address on your Android:

  • Go to “Settings.”
  • Click on “Wireless & Networks” or “Network & Internet” if you’re using a Pixel device. 
  • Select the WiFi network that you are connected to. 
  • Your IP address will be displayed along with the other network information.

Features and Factors Involved with IP Addresses

For an IP address to function and operate the way it is supposed to, certain factors must come into play. Let’s take a look at the features and factors involved with IP addresses! 

1. Internet Connection

Your IP address works with your internet connection. You will need to first connect to a network or internet service provider, either of which will then assign you a unique IP address. Without this assigned address, your network or service provider cannot create a connection to the internet for you.

2. Unique Addresses 

Your computer will not have the same IP address as any other computer. Local IP addresses begin with 192.168 or 10.0, and a local IP address refers to the address that is assigned to your computer. Every IP address operates independently.

3. Characters

IP addresses are a combination of letters and numbers. IPv6 IPs have a maximum of 32 characters while IPv4 IPs have a maximum of 15 characters. 

The 4 Types of IP Addresses 

Not all IP addresses are the same nor do they operate in the same ways. There are different types of IP addresses on the internet. The four types of IP addresses include:

  • Public
  • Private
  • Static
  • Dynamic

Public IP Address

A public IP address provides one primary address for an entire network, and it’s usually provided by internet service providers. Remember that the internet is a network of computers. 

So, let’s say all of the laptops and phones in your office belong to the same network. A public IP will give your entire office a unique identification address that everyone who isn’t part of your office’s network will use to communicate with your office. 

Private IP Address

A private IP address is a unique IP address that is assigned to every device within a network. Every laptop and device connected to a network will have its own unique IP address. But this isn’t limited to just computers alone. 

You will notice that many devices require access to the internet, such as Bluetooth devices, speakers, printers, and smart TVs. Each of these devices also has a unique or private IP address that helps to differentiate and identify all of the devices within a network.

Static IP Address

As the name implies, a static IP cannot be changed. Static IPs are consistent and remain the same once they have been assigned. They can stay the same for years, too. 

Static IPs aren’t for everyone or every business. But if you want to run a server or allow people to find your websites via a consistent address on the web, then a static IP address is best.

Dynamic IP Address

Unlike static IP addresses, a dynamic IP address is constantly changing. It’s a new address that is assigned to a device every single time the device is connected to the internet. Usually, there is a collection of IP addresses that are shared across many devices. Dynamic IP addresses are great for security purposes because it makes it difficult for hackers to take over. 

Types of Website IP Addresses

Websites generally work with two types of IP addresses: shared IP addresses and dedicated IP addresses.

Shared IP Address

These are IP addresses that rely on a shared hosting plan. This means that your website will share a server with other websites. If your website doesn’t draw a lot of traffic and the pages of your site are small, then a shared IP address will be ideal for your situation. All websites that operate with shared IP addresses will also share a common IP address.

Dedicated IP Address

You can always buy a dedicated IP address, which means you don’t have to share your IP with other websites. This option will require you to obtain an SSL certificate that protects site visitors from hackers. A dedicated IP address will also allow you to access your website using the IP address alone, even when you don’t use your domain name. 

1. Provides additional security for website owners 

With a dedicated IP address, you’ll need to acquire an SSL certificate, which is protocol for web browsers, granting them the authentication of data sent over the internet. This will protect the people who visit your website from hackers and unsecured connections. 

2. Yields less downtime  

Dedicated IP addresses will speed up your internet search process. Ultimately, this will reduce the amount of downtime, or the time lost as a result of forces beyond your control. 

3. Offers access to certain applications

Some applications may require an IP address in order to be implemented. An IP address will improve your chances of accessing such applications.

4. Gives unlimited access to the internet 

You’ll be able to log in to your PC from any location with programs like Remote Administrator. Although you can set the connection no matter which type of IP address you have, you’ll need a fixed address in order for the program to recognize your PC.  

5. Accommodates higher traffic volume 

A dedicated IP can help you handle large amounts of traffic on your website. Since SEO relies on customer experience and the amount of time that viewers spend on your website, faster websites will rank better. This will open more doors for your business, too! 

Disadvantages of IP Address

1. More Separation 

In a small business office environment operating via a private network, your employees can send data to each other but they cannot send or receive customer data. While this separation via a private network can ensure higher security, it can also prevent the flow of data.

2. Maintenance Costs 

If your computer is connected to an external network, it may require additional setup and maintenance because your computer will need to communicate with more than one IP address in order to reach the external network. A single network will have to take on the cost of network space and connection equipment. 

3. Security Risks 

Your IP address poses little danger to your network. It cannot be used to disclose your specific identity, but a hacker can use your IP address to perform a disclosure attack where they’ll get access to sensitive contents of your computer. 

The hacker can also perform a denial of service (DOS) attack. In this case, you’ll be restricted from performing certain important activities online. The most common example of this is when your ability to access a certain site or post in the comment section of websites is blocked. 

Guarding Your IP Address 

As much as your IP address is important and necessary for you to access the internet, it is also recommended that you keep your IP address private. You can protect your IP address by installing a firewall. 

A firewall is a network security system that controls outgoing and incoming network traffic, but it’s not the only option. You can also install a virtual private network (VPN). Most routers use built-in firewalls, but it is advisable that you confirm this with your internet service provider.