All hardware on a network or connected to the internet has a unique number that identifies it. This differentiates every single device that’s connected to the internet. The IP address is what is used to load websites, to send or receive files, and more. The IP address for each device will be unique, allowing the device to send and receive information quickly and easily.
What is an IP Address?
IP is short for Internet Protocol. The IP address is what allows devices to communicate with each other over a network or the internet. It works like a home address, so information can be sent to exactly the right place. Basically, this allows the information to be moved around on the internet and ensure it’s going to end up at the right spot. Right now, IPv4 (or IP version 4) is used, which has a series of numbers in the address. However, this is changing over to IPv6 because of the number of devices now connected to the internet.
How is an IP Address Used?
The IP address identifies the device and allows it to get information from the internet. When someone opens a website on their computer, DNS servers look up the website to find the corresponding IP address. This lets the computer find the website it’s looking for so the information on the website will load on the person’s computer. Without the IP address, the DNS servers would have no idea which website to load. All this is done in seconds, which is why websites will load quickly most of the time. If the DNS servers for the website aren’t working properly, it could mean they cannot look up the IP address and, therefore, the website won’t be able to load.
Different Types of IP Addresses
There are a few different types of IP addresses. Each of these types can be IPv4 or IPv6 and can be made up of numbers or letters. The main types of IP addresses include the following.
- Private IP Addresses – These are the addresses used inside a network so your computer, tablet, smartphone, and any other internet-connected device can connect with your router. You can usually set these IP addresses manually or have them assigned automatically. These can be dynamic or static IP addresses.
- Public IP Addresses – These are addresses used outside of a network to connect with the internet. Your router will use a public IP address to be able to connect with the internet. These IP addresses are assigned by the internet service provider. Public IP addresses can be either dynamic or static.
- Static IP Addresses – Static IP addresses basically do not change. These addresses can change, for instance, if you switch internet providers, but typically stay the same as long as there isn’t an interruption in service.
- Dynamic IP Addresses – Dynamic IP addresses are ones that are assigned by a DHCP server. These addresses change and may be different each time you check the IP address for the device you’re using. Most of the time, if DHCP is supported, it does need to be enabled to use a dynamic IP address.
IPv4 Versus IPv6
Most IP addresses right now are IPv4. This is the older and now outdated version of IP addresses and is slowly being replaced by IPv6. The main reason for this is that IPv6 can handle more IP addresses than IPv4. Basically, all devices connected to the internet must have a unique IP address. IPv4 has the potential for over 4 billion unique IP addresses, but in the modern world, this just isn’t enough. Version 6, IPv6, supports around 340 trillion unique IP addresses. With this many possible, everyone could have a huge number of devices in their home or office and there would still be plenty of IP addresses leftover. IPv6 also provides a number of other benefits, such as more efficient routing and built-in privacy.
If you check the IP address for the device you’re using right now, it will likely look like a series of numbers with periods between different sections. This is the IPv4 display of the IP address. IPv6 will look different. Since it’s written in hexadecimal, it can be a series of numbers and letters with colons between the sections.
IP addresses are crucial for the internet to actually work. They allow your devices to connect with the internet, view websites and send information. Though the version used is changing, they still work in much the same way and allow any of the devices you may have at home or at work to connect to the internet so you can get the information you need.