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What is an IP Address: Definition and Its Types

What is an IP Address: Definition and Its Types

IP address is one of the crucial components that allows you to perform all activities online. Thanks to the IP address, you can access the information you want on the internet or local networks.

For those who rarely tinker with network settings, the term "IP address" may sound quite technical and unfamiliar. However, every device you use has its own IP address, be it a laptop, phone, or even a website.

So, what is an IP address? This article will explain the definition of an IP address, its functions, and the different types of IP addresses. Let's delve into the explanation!

What is an IP Address?

An IP address is a series of numbers that each device connected to a network, such as computers, phones, website servers, or others, possesses, and it serves as the unique identity of that device.

The series of numbers in an IP address are separated by dots. Each device connected to the internet has its own dedicated IP address.

The primary function of an IP address is to serve as an identification that allows devices to communicate with each other in a computer network. Think of it as your telephone number that friends use to contact you.

Consequently, data can be sent from the source to the destination accurately, without the risk of reaching the wrong place.

An IP address consists of two parts:

What is an IP Address
  • Network ID: This part of the IP address identifies the network to which the device is connected.
  • Host ID: This part of the IP address identifies the specific device or host within the network.

Now that you understand what an IP address is as a device's identity, let's explain how IP addresses work and their role in the process of sending information to devices. Let's move on to the next point!

How IP Address Works

The functioning of an IP address involves using the Internet Protocol (IP) to identify and locate devices within a computer network.

As mentioned earlier, every device such as computers, phones, smart TVs, and even printers connected to a network is assigned a unique IP address that differs from other devices.

When connected to a network, the device requests an IP address from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the local network's router to represent its identity. Once assigned an IP address, the device can start sending and receiving data through the network using that address.

Data sent over the internet is divided into small packets. Each data packet is equipped with a source address and a destination address, which represent the IP address of the sending and receiving devices, respectively.

Routers or other network devices responsible for routing data use routing tables that store information about connected networks and their corresponding IP addresses. This way, these devices can communicate, receive, and send data effectively.

Function of IP Address

The devices you use fundamentally work with numbers. So, besides being an identity for devices, the function of an IP address is to enable communication between all connected devices within a network.

For example, with a wireless printer, when you want to print a document, you can choose the desired printer, and the document will be printed on the correct printer, avoiding sending it to the wrong printer.

Similarly, when you access a website on the internet, you won't mistakenly view the content of another website because your request is directed through a specific IP address that is different from other websites.

Therefore, the function of an IP address is to serve as a unique identifier for both devices and websites, route data packets, configure networks, and facilitate communication within the network by identifying devices along with their locations.

Versions of IP Address

You may have noticed that there are different types of IP addresses, such as IPv4 and IPv6.

Both types of IP addresses serve the same purpose, but there are some significant differences. In this section, we will discuss the differences between IPv4 and IPv6 and their respective meanings.

IPv4

IPv4 has been used since the commercialization of the internet and is the most widely used version. Chances are, you are currently using it too.

An IPv4 address consists of a 32-bit numeric value divided into four groups of numbers separated by periods. Each group represents a decimal representation of eight binary digits (bits).

Each group of eight binary digits is also called an octet, with each octet having a maximum value of 255. Consequently, an IPv4 address ranges from 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255. With this range, IPv4 can accommodate nearly 4.3 billion IP addresses.

To illustrate this explanation, here are some examples of IPv4 addresses:

  • 172.16.254.1
  • 172.146.80.100
  • 192.168.1.3
  • 172.16.254.1

IPv6

IPv6 is a version of IP address that is not widely used yet, but it was created due to the decreasing availability of IPv4 addresses.

With over one billion websites and numerous internet-connected devices today, the number of IP addresses required has increased significantly. Hence, IPv6 was introduced.

IPv6 consists of a 128-bit numeric value divided into eight groups of numbers and letters separated by colons. Each group is a decimal representation of 16 binary digits.

Due to the vast number of combinations of numbers and letters, IPv6 can accommodate up to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. This quantity is more than sufficient to meet all IP address needs worldwide for a considerable amount of time.

An example of an IPv6 address is 2001:cdba:0000:0000:0000:0000:3257:9652.

However, groups that consist only of zeros are usually omitted for simplicity. The omitted part is indicated by two colons, as shown in the following: 2001:cdba::3257:9652.

Types of IP Address

IP addresses are categorized into four types, including:

Public IP

As the name suggests, a Public IP address is an address that can be accessed over the internet. Therefore, public IP addresses are assigned to devices intended for public access. Examples of devices that use public IP addresses are website servers, email servers, and Wi-Fi routers.

Both public and private IP addresses have their own range of numbers (which will be explained in the next section).

The allocation of public IP address ranges is governed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). If an organization (such as an internet service provider) wants to obtain public IP address space, it must request permission from this authoritative body.

Private IP

Private IP addresses are used for communication within a local network. Devices like laptops, PCs, and phones have private IP addresses. Each of these devices can communicate with each other within the local network without accessing the internet directly.

You might wonder: how does my computer access a website if its IP address is private? The answer is that it does so through the public IP address of your internet router acting as an intermediary.

Dynamic IP

A dynamic IP address is a type of IP address typically used by the general public, including yourself. Internet service providers provide these IP addresses for free, but they are not permanent.

Why is that so? As mentioned earlier, the available pool of IP addresses is shrinking. Therefore, the principle of using dynamic IPs is a rotation system. Internet service providers are responsible for this rotation.

Dynamic IP addresses can change once a week, month, or year. However, a device or internet router restart can also trigger a change in the assigned IP.

Static IP

In contrast to the above types, a static IP address is "booked" by the entity using it.

Users who reserve one or more IP addresses include web hosting providers, virtual private networks (VPNs), and file transfer protocol (FTP) servers. They need a fixed IP address for services that rely on it.

Of course, users must pay a certain fee provided by the internet service provider to obtain a static IP address.

Shared IP

With the previous explanation about public IP, you probably understand that each website server has a single IP address.

Shared IPs are typically found in shared web hosting servers, where all users share the same server resources, including the IP address. Moreover, all domain names belonging to a user also share the same IP address.

Dedicated IP

While shared IPs are used collectively by all users on a server, dedicated IPs are assigned to a single domain.

Although this type of IP address is usually offered in Dedicated Hosting and Cloud VPS Hosting, some web hosting providers allow their customers to use dedicated IPs on shared hosting servers.

IP Address Classes

IPv4 IP addresses are also divided into several classes. Each class has a range of numbers and a maximum number of IP addresses and networks:

Class A

  • Number range: 0.0.0.0 – 127.255.255.255
  • Maximum IP addresses: 16,777,216
  • Maximum networks: 128

Class B

  • Number range: 128.0.0.0 – 191.255.255.255
  • Maximum IP addresses: 1,048,576
  • Maximum networks: 16,384

Class C

  • Number range: 192.0.0.0 – 223.255.255.255
  • Maximum IP addresses: 65,536
  • Maximum networks: 2,097,152

Class D

  • Number range: 224.0.0.0 – 239.255.255.255
  • Maximum IP addresses: not defined
  • Maximum networks: not defined

Class E

  • Number range: 140.0.0.0 – 255.255.255.255
  • Maximum IP addresses: not defined
  • Maximum networks: not defined

Know What an IP Address Is?

An Internet Protocol address or IP address is a series of numbers used by all computing devices to connect through local networks or the internet. There are two versions of IP addresses, namely IPv4, which has been used since the early days of the internet, and IPv6, which was created more recently to accommodate the shortage of IP address space.

In addition, IP addresses are also divided into several types, such as shared IP and dedicated IP used in web hosting servers. Usually, dedicated IPs are only offered in high-performance hosting services like VPS.

Although they are more expensive, this type of IP address is preferred by website owners. This is because a dedicated IP address is solely dedicated to one website or one device. So, this IP address is suitable for those who want to build an online store or other websites with sensitive data and high traffic.

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