A static IP address is a unique 32-bit number that is assigned to a computer as its address on the internet. This number is typically provided by an internet service provider (ISP) and is represented in the form of a dotted quad.
An IP address serves as a distinct identifier for any device that connects to the internet. Computers use IP addresses to locate and communicate with each other on the internet, similar to how people use phone numbers to locate and talk to each other on the phone. An IP address can also provide information such as the geographic location and hosting provider.
For instance, when a user wants to visit a website such as WhatIs.com, their computer requests the correct dotted quad number from a domain name system (DNS) server, which is similar to a telephone information operator. The DNS maps the domain name to the IP address, which is required to identify a device using a network protocol. In this case, the DNS server links the quad number (similar to a phone number) for WhatIs.com, and the user’s computer uses the answer it receives to connect to the WhatIs.com server.
When a static IP address is necessary
As static IP addresses are not as commonly used nowadays, it is essential to understand when using a static IP address is necessary. For businesses hosting servers and websites that require a high uptime percentage, use voice over IP (VoIP), or have employees who often work from home, static IP addresses are typically used. If employees want to access their devices remotely from home, an IP address that changes may require the employee to know the new address. However, with a remote access application and a static IP address, an employee could always access their computer with the same address.
- In most cases, businesses will use a static IP address to streamline operations with FTP, email and virtual private networks (VPNs) servers, database servers, network equipment, as well as with web hosting services. Businesses that handle a lot of data in these areas will find having a static IP address useful for employees and customers who have to connect to the organization’s servers.
- Using an IP address that changes can be challenging when hosting a website because with each new IP address, the router settings must change to forward requests to the right IP address. Without this process, no end-user can reach the website as the router wouldn’t know what device in the network is hosting the website.
- DNS servers will also typically use static IP addresses. If the IP address changed regularly, then the DNS server would have to be reconfigured on a router just as often.
- When a device’s domain is not accessible, a computer can still connect to a server in the network using a static IP address. For example, a computer could always be set to connect to a server’s static IP address instead of its hostname, which means that a computer could still connect to a DNS server even if the DNS server isn’t functioning correctly.
- Essentially, any service or feature that requires a constant connection should have a static IP address. Although it may feel seamless for the end-user, when an IP address changes and is assigned a new number, any previously connected user is removed from the connection and must then wait to find the new address and reconnect. This is why services that require a consistent connection, such as a file-system service or online game, will use a static IP address.
If needed, a LAN administrator can use DHCP to assign IP addresses that don’t change. In almost all other situations, an organization or home network should use what is called a dynamic IP address, as dynamic IP addresses are the more cost-effective method.
How static IP addresses work
BAs static IP addresses are not typically offered by most ISPs, individuals or organizations must contact their ISP and request a static IP address for their device, such as a router. Once set up, the device and any connected devices will use the same unchanging IP address, which requires no further management.
However, there is a limited number of static IP addresses available, which means that obtaining one often incurs additional costs. To address this issue, IPv6 was introduced, which increases the number of available IP addresses significantly by lengthening IP addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits (16 bytes). Although IPv4 is still widely used, more internet traffic is shifting towards IPv6.
IPv6 provides for up to 340 undecillion unique IP addresses, allowing for considerable future growth of the internet and eliminating concerns about a potential shortage of network addresses. For reference, this is equivalent to 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique IP addresses.
Pros and cons of static IP addresses
Static IP addresses may not be as commonly used as dynamic ones, but they do offer several advantages, including:
- Businesses that rely on IP addresses for mail, FTP, and web servers can benefit from having a consistent, unchanging address.
- Static IP addresses are preferred for hosting voice over IP, VPNs, and games.
- They can provide greater stability in the event of a connectivity interruption, reducing the risk of lost packet exchanges.
- File servers may have faster uploads and downloads with static IP addresses.
- Geolocation services can more easily identify the location of a device with a static IP.
- Remote access to a computer is typically easier with a static IP address.
- Devices with static IPs do not need to send renewal requests, which can simplify network administration.
- It is easier for administrators to track internet traffic and assign access to users based on IP address.
However, there are also some disadvantages to using static IP addresses, including:
- They can limit the number of available IP addresses, as a static IP address remains assigned to a device even when it is not in use.
- Most people do not require a static IP address.
- Because a static IP address is constant and cannot easily be changed, it is more vulnerable to hacking or follow-up attacks.
- Manually setting up a static IP can be complicated.
- Transferring server settings from a static IP device to a new one can be challenging if the original device becomes obsolete.
- Devices with static IPs are easier to track.
- Static IP addresses are typically more expensive, as ISPs often require static IP users to sign up for a commercial account and pay one-time fees. Monthly internet service costs may also increase.
To address security concerns, it is recommended to implement router firewalls, use a VPN, or utilize an internet security suite. While these measures cannot guarantee absolute security, they can significantly improve overall protection.
Steps to obtain a static address
To acquire a static IP address, begin by selecting the desired device for assignment. Retrieve the MAC address of the device; typically located on a sticker beneath the router or obtainable from the ISP. Proceed by contacting the ISP to purchase the static IP address, providing the device’s MAC address. It may take a few days for the ISP to assign the static IP address, but once assigned, reset the device at least once.
For Windows operating systems, follow these steps to view the IP address:
1. Open the Control Panel from the Start menu.
2. Navigate to either the Network Sharing Center or Network and Internet options, then select Network and Sharing Center.
3. Choose the Change Adapter Settings option.
4. Right-click on Wi-Fi and select Properties.
5. Click on Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4), followed by Properties.
6. Select the Use the following IP address option.
7. Modify or view the IP address, Subnet mask, default gateway, and DNS server.
8. Choose OK to display the updated IP address.
Static vs. dynamic IP address
When an individual signs up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP), they are provided with either a static or dynamic IP address. Dynamic IP addresses are more commonly used today, especially for home use, while static IP addresses have advantages in certain business-centric use cases.
The main difference between static and dynamic IP addresses is that static refers to unchanging, while dynamic refers to changing. This means that the numbers associated with a static IP address do not change, while the numbers associated with a dynamic IP address can change.
Normally, a dynamic IP address can stay the same for days, weeks, or longer, but can also be changed by the ISP or through a reset of the router or modem. The address change does not affect the end user. In most cases, when an ISP assigns a device an IP address for home use, it will be a dynamic IP address.
On the other hand, a static IP address does not change and will typically cost an additional fee through the ISP. Static IP addresses have to be reserved from a limited number of IP addresses. Static IP addresses will stay the same no matter what the user does unless they request their ISP to change it. Businesses might want to use a static IP address to ease operations.
In most cases, however, a dynamic IP address is the cheaper and better option.
Static IP addresses are often considered less secure than dynamic IP addresses. This is because the unchanging nature of a static IP address can make it easier for hackers to locate and gain access to sensitive data, and may also make devices with static IP addresses more susceptible to follow-up attacks. Additionally, static IP addresses can be easier to track.
However, security risks associated with dynamic IP addresses can be mitigated through the implementation of additional security measures such as a router firewall, security suite, or VPN. For example, using a VPN can help obscure a device’s physical location, making it more difficult for unauthorized access. While these measures cannot guarantee complete data security at all times, they can significantly enhance the overall security of a network, making them a wise investment for any organization or individual concerned about the safety of their sensitive information.