Every machine on a network (like the Internet) possesses a unique identifier. The unique identifier is used by computers to send data to specific computers on a network. Today all the computers on Internet use the TCP/IP protocol to communicate with each other. In this particular protocol, the unique identifier for a computer is called its IP address. There exist two standards for IP addresses namely IP Version 4(IPv4) and IP Version 6(IPv6). All computers with IP addresses possess an IPv4 address and several have begun to use the new IPv6 address also. You can learn more about TCP/IP with this easy to follow video course.
There are two kinds of IP addresses- Static IP and Dynamic IP. In this intermediate level tutorial we walk you through the comparison between static IP address and dynamic IP address, and discuss the pros and cons of both.
IPv4 and IPv6
IPv4 uses 32 bits to create a single unique address on the network. The address is represented by four numbers separated by dots. Each number is the decimal representation for an eight digit binary number.
For example 184.108.40.206.
On the other hand IPv6 uses 128 binary bits to create a single unique address on the network. The address is represented by eight groups of hexadecimal numbers separated by colons. Here’s an example:
The practice is to usually omit the groups of numbers that contain all zeros. Here a colon separator is used to mark the gap. For example the above IP address can also be represented by
How to Obtain an IP address
A good question to ask is how does your computer get its IP address. Like we said earlier, an IP address can be either static or dynamic. A static IP address is assigned one time and reserved for only your computer. Even when it is switched off. You can configure a static address yourself by editing your computer’s network settings. To do this you need to understand TCP/IP well. Dynamic addresses are assigned by the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol(DHCP) a service which runs on the network. This protocol typically runs on network hardware such as routers or dedicated DHCP servers. It maintains a pool of IP addresses and dynamically assigns them to the computers as they are switched on, or connect to the network. Learn how to set up IP addresses and sub nets easily with this course.
What is NAT?
Today the actual number of IP addresses available is roughly 3.3 billion. As the Internet is growing very fast, there are not enough addresses available. Every machine connected to the internet – whether it’s a PC, a tablet or a phone on WiFi – requires an IP address. This is where Network Address Translation (NAT) comes into the picture. It allows a single IP address to be used for an entire group of computers. The static NAT directs an unregistered IP address to a registered IP address which is very useful when a computer has to access another computer which is outside the network. The Dynamic NAT is responsible to direct unregistered IP addresses to registered ones from a collective of registered IP addresses. The former also use overloading in which multiple unregistered IP addresses are directed to a single address with the use of different ports. Each computer on the private network uses the same IP address but is given a different port number. In other words the port is an extension of the IP address. Most of the firms that have computers connected to the Internet use Network Address Translation. Currently NAT is the best and safest method which is available to enable computers to talk to each other. To learn more about NAT, and routing in general, you can look up this Cisco IP Routing course.
When Do You Opt for Static IP Address
- If your business needs to receive large amounts of data, it is recommended that you have your own FTP server so that you can receive and send files. It is beneficial to have your static IP address so that customers, suppliers and others can reliably connect to your server.
- To make sure that your website has the capability to respond to queries for your domain name it has to be associated with your static IP address. Remember that your domain name is what your customers will put into a browser.
- Examples where you may need a static IP address include email or chat servers, database servers, network equipment and VPN(Virtual Private Network). Here having a static IP address makes interaction over the net more convenient.
Advantages of Static IP Address
- Stability– In case of applications such as authenticated services on web servers and file downloads the connection should be stable. In static IP a small interruption in the connection usually does not terminate the packet exchange with the service.
- Hosting– Since there is no change of IP address, this is suitable for applications which use Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP),gaming applications, and Virtual Private Network(VPN).
- Preferred address for servers– Static IP addresses is ideal if your computer acts as a server. The reason is it gives your file server relatively faster file uploads and downloads.
- Convenient remote access– When you remotely connect to a computer you need not worry about the changes in the IP address during the connected session. Also when you connect to your computer through applications such as remote desktop, you need not be bothered about losing the IP address.
- Reduced down time– The IP never resets. In other words your computer need not send any request for renewal. This makes it an ideal choice for seamless connectivity.
Disadvantages of Static IP Address
- Security– Static IP Address could be a security risk as the IP address is constant. There is a greater chance of hacking the website. Also you cannot easily change the Static IP once it has been hacked. This makes your system very susceptible to continuous attack. It is imperative to put preventive measures in place before obtaining a static IP such as Internet security suites and router firewalls.
- Uptime– static IPs are preferred for hosting servers and file transfer protocol sites. So the servers have to be on all the time to host these functions. The cost of constantly running a server is exorbitant.
- Configuration– The process to set a static IP is manual and relatively complex. Occasionally, external software is required for this purpose. Also several consumer level ISPs lack support for static IPs.
- Keeping pace with technology– The field of computers is rapidly changing. It is possible that a static IP computer running a server becomes obsolete in the near future. It is relatively complex to transfer the server settings from a static IP computer to a new computer. It is wise to invest in an easily upgradable computer to run a static IP server.
Advantages of Dynamic IP Address
- Security –Computers having Dynamic IP address have relatively lower security risk (as your computer is assigned a new IP address each time you log on).
- Lower cost -Cost effective as compared to the static kind of address
- Automatic network configuration –The user does not have to do the network configuration. That is taken care of.
Disadvantages of Dynamic IP Address
- Security issues – DHCP automation can be significant security threat in case of a rogue DHCP server. This server is not in the control of the network personnel. If any user connects to it, information over that connection can be intercepted and looked at. Thus network security and user privacy is violated.
- Network Failure –If only a single DHCP server is in place, it’s failure causes a system wide issue. In case of server failure, any connected computers that don’t already have an IP address will try and fail to obtain one. Computers which already have an IP address before the server’s failure will try to renew it, which will cause the computer losing its IP address.
- Less Reliable – Note that Dynamic IP addressing should not be used for VOIP, VPN, playing online games as Dynamic IP addressing is less reliable then Static IP addressing and could cause the service to disconnect while you are on a VOIP, VPN or gaming.
Hope this helps you understand the basics of IP addresses and when to opt for a static vs dynamic IP address. We recommend you also take this Comptia Network course to get a more holistic understanding of networks and how it all works together.