Static vs. Dynamic IP Addresses

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The difference between static IP's and dynamic IP's.

Every electronic device connected to the Internet, including desktops, laptops, servers, smart phones, and tablets, have a unique IP address. This means that no two devices connected to the Internet can have the same IP address.

Why? IP addresses are a way for electronic devices to communicate. For example, an IP address is similar to a phone number. If you want to call a friend or family member, you dial their phone number. If you don’t know the phone number, you have no way to talk to them. Similarly, electronic devices use an IP address to “call” one another. When you type in a URL of a website into your Internet browser, you’re basically telling your computer to “call” the website.

Static IP Address

A static IP address is an IP address that never changes. This type of IP address is generally used by businesses and companies that require constant availability. A good example of a situation that requires a static IP address is a web server. Web servers must always be available. Not only should they always be available, they can’t be found easily if the website’s IP address is always changing. Therefore, most website hosting involves the use of a static IP address.

For example, one of the servers for Google’s search has a static IP address of 74.125.239.52. This way, the rest of the devices connected to the Internet know that Google will always be at the IP address 74.125.239.52.

Dynamic IP Address

Dynamic IP addresses are IP addresses that may change from time to time. Most Internet users have a dynamic IP address that they receive from their Internet Service Provider, or ISP. You may not know it, but your home IP address likely changes every so often.

Home Internet users don’t need a static IP address. How come? Because the majority of your Internet traffic is outbound. For example, when you’re browsing the web, you are requesting information from websites. Your computer sends a request, and with the request, your IP address. This lets the website know exactly where to send the web page. The web page arrives to your computer, via the IP address.

Another reason home Internet users have dynamic IP addresses is because there’s a shortage. If you remember, every device has to have a unique IP address. There are only 4 million IP addresses available using the current Internet Protocol (IPv4). There are definitely more than 4 million electronic devices connected to the Internet.

Internet Service Providers change your IP address to allow other devices to connect to the Internet. When one device looses it’s IP address, another IP address becomes available. Dynamic IP addresses are a way to provide a temporary fix for the shortage. Soon, dynamic IP addresses will nearly be unnecessary due to the deployment of IPv6.

Sticky IP Addresses

Most Internet service providers don’t use true dynamic IP addressing for home users. A truly dynamic IP address system would require a lot of maintenance to remain efficient. Instead, ISP’s use what’s know as “Sticky” IP addressing. This means that they rarely, but occasionally, do change IP addresses. Usually, you receive a new IP address when you reset your Internet modem.