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What is an IP Address?

If you are an avid internet user, you have probably heard previously about IP addresses. Today we will dive deep into what is an IP address and how the IP addressing system is used to allow computers to communicate over the internet.

03 Aug, 21 by Antoniy Yushkevych 14 min Read

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If you have this one question in your mind while using the Internet, then pat yourself because you will find out something exciting and monumental that helps you access the Internet. So here we go, an IP address is a short form of Internet Protocol Address, and each machine that is using the Internet has its own unique identity on the Internet, which is the IP address. The IP address is made up of a string of numbers that are separated by periods. "192.158. 1.38" This is one of the examples of an IP address, you will have different numbers, but mostly it will still look the same. 

We have just said above a simple explanation of what an IP address is, but if you want to truly understand how an IP address is your identity on the Internet and why having an IP address is essential? Then you need to read this article given, which starts right now!

 

It will be much easier to show you the importance of IP address when you have the basic idea of how an IP address works and makes you connect with the world wide web. The IP address has two different standards the IPv4 and IPv6. IPV4 was the first IP address that was offered for public usage. Right now, the Internet has more IPV4 addresses than IPv6, but in the coming years, IPv6 is undoubtedly going to overtake IPv4. But we can't ignore IPv4, which is the most widely deployed IP in the world to make people connect their devices to the Internet. 

The IPv4 has a 32-bit address, and thus, it has the limit of 4 billion addresses. 4 billion might look a lot, but in truth, all of these addresses are exhausted. That's why IPv6 was introduced in the first place. On the other hand, the latest IP technology IPv6 uses eight blocks of four hexadecimal digits. If you compare the number of addresses present in IPv6 with IPv4, you might be in for a surprise. In theory, and purely, in theory, the IPv6 can provide 340 undecillion IP addresses. Now you know there's a sufficient amount of IP addresses for everyone, let's find out how an IP address works. 

 

The IP address comprises two parts: the first is the identifier of a particular network on the Internet, and the second is the identifier of the specific device present in the network. When it comes to finding out the address of the sender when the packets are moving in the server, the server only looks at the first part, which is the network part of the IP address. 

Often, if you are trying to troubleshoot your network, you need to tweak your IP address settings. As a result, an internet user must know how an IP address works. All the tasks which are performed by the IP address happen behind the scenes, and the processing looks something like this:

Step - 1: When you are connecting with the Internet, your machine first gets connected to a network connected to the Internet. The network verifies your credentials, and then it allows you access to the Internet. 

Step - 2: When you are using the Internet at home, the network to which you are connected is provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). At work, it's going to be your company's network. 

Step - 3: The ISP company will be assigning your IP address. 

Step - 4: All your activity goes through the ISP, and all the data, which is incoming and outgoing, have been routed to you via the IP address. Since ISP is the one that is providing you the internet connectivity, it is their responsibility to assign you the IP address. 

Step - 5: But your IP address can be changed if you want; you can contact your ISP and ask them to change it manually. 

Step - 6: On the other hand, when you access the Internet from a cafe, your home IP address doesn't stick to your device. Because you will be using the IP address given by you to the cafe's ISP service. 

 

The above steps have shown us how an IP address is assigned and works to provide you with the internet service. But there is one more thing that we get to know, and that is there are different types of IP addresses which we are bound by their geo-location and can be accessed through their network. So now it's time to find out what the different types of IP addresses are. 

Private IP Address 

First things first, if you have a router, you have a private IP address. Also, both Private and Public IP addresses work together in order to provide you with internet connectivity. The authority which is responsible for assigning IP addresses reserves a range of IP addresses so they can be used for accessing the Internet via private networks. In other words, a private IP address is also said to be your local address as it has been set by default by the manufacturer of the router.

When it makes an internet connection via your ISP's network, a router sends the internet activity to any device connected to your router. This process is called Network Address Translation (i.e., NAT).

Moreover, private IP addresses are non-routable. Thus, the internet connection you are using sends the data packets on the network using your public IP address, which clarifies that you need both private and public IP addresses to browse the Internet securely. 

Public IP Address 

A public IP address is one that is associated with the whole network. If you are using the Internet in a public space or from an internet cafe. Then your connection will have the same IP address as the other devices which are connected to the same network. Even at home, your ISP provides your router with a public IP address, and when you connect a device with your router, it will further create the subparts of the IP address and distribute it to the connected devices. The public IP address has Dynamic IP address and Static IP address as its two subparts. 

Dynamic IP Address 

Dynamic means the property is constantly changing; most of the IP addresses which are present today on the Internet are dynamic IP addresses as they are more cost-effective for both the ISPs and for you. 

Most of the users are looking for a high-speed, reliable internet connection, and the Dynamic IP address can do that as it changes from time to time, but even when you are surfing the Internet, and the IP address is changed, you will not notice anything. If you are running a company, then we would like you to have a static IP address as you might have your own in-house server and a network that requires users to transfer files to one another within a network. 

Static IP Address 

On the other hand, there is a Static IP address that doesn't change. Once your device is assigned with a static IP address, that address is going to stay exactly the same until your device is destroyed or you changed your ISP. In most cases, the static IP addresses are used by the servers and the other critical network equipment. If you specify that you need a static IP address, then your ISP will provide you with one. Otherwise, there are more chances of your router having a dynamic IP address. 

But when you are using a static IP address, your cost of using the IPS service will increase as they are not usually used in the consumer plans. On the other hand, with a static IP address, you are always at risk of providing your actual location all the time. Anyone can easily find where your system is located as it doesn't have the changing IP address. But Static IP addresses have their own benefits as they are much easier to set up and manage with the Domain Name Server (DNS).

To find out more about Different types of IP addresses, check out this detailed blog post.

 

Each device has its own physical address, and it is probably different from the Internet's IP address. On the other hand, an IP address is also called a logical address assigned by the software stored in the router. The IP address may change from time to time if you have a dynamic IP address. But the physical address, which is also known as the MAC address of the system, is a built-in address stored in the hardware of the machine. In case you have ever lost your laptop, you can locate it using the IP network, which converts the logical IP address into the physical address by using the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) 

 

It is one of the most common questions asked on the Internet when one first gets an internet connection. Well, it is relatively easy to find out the IP address of your internet connection, all you have to do is ask Google, and within seconds, you will be able to find what your IP address is. The IP address that Google shows you are the public IP addresses as Google can only see the IP addresses which the network uses for your machine to connect with the Internet. 

In order to find out the local IP address, which is present in your router, you need to follow these steps.

  1. First, go to the settings options in your Windows or any other operating system. 
  2. Then you click on the Network & Internet. 
  3. After that, find out the connection to which you are connected. If you are using the Wi-Fi connection, click on the Wi-Fi, otherwise choose Ethernet. 
  4. Then click on the network, and your IP address will come out in the next window alongside the IPv4 address. 

 

Usually, IP addresses are assigned to users by the ISPs, but even ISPs are assigned IP addresses by the International Assigned Number Authority (IANA). Both the IPv4 and IPv6 IP addresses are given out in a hierarchical order in which IANA is on the top of the hierarchy. IANA provides countries with a block of IP addresses to regional internet registries. After that, these regional registries again divide the assigned IP addresses into smaller blocks and give them to ISP services. Lastly, from the ISP, you are getting a specific IP address for individual devices.

 

Your IP address is basically what other people and the websites are going to see when you are trying to access data from them. The IP address actually works as a fingerprint of what you are doing online. A webpage might store this information in order to learn more about you and your location. On the other hand, this data can be sold to third parties, which can then use it for advertising their products on your web browser. 

One of the great examples of this data storing can be found with Amazon. Once you look for some product on Amazon, it will start to pop up everywhere on the Internet. From your social media platforms to even the blogs and videos you watch on YouTube, every page on the Internet will start showing you that product or the ones that are pretty similar to it. This is known as remarketing, where a company retargets a client or a customer who has already visited a website or a web page of a product. 

Moreover, some countries might have a restriction on certain websites, and thus, you can't open them up using your own IP address. As a result, you need some other IP that is not associated with your country and the region to access the restricted information on the Internet. 

 

You can easily hide your IP address using a simple tool called Virtual Private Network (VPN). When you want to access data from a website, your browser sends a request to the server where the website is being hosted. From there, the information comes back to you, but along the way, the information about your IP address and the geo-location is exchanged a number of times, and it can be easily intercepted by the attackers, government, and nosey advertisers. 

With the use of VPN, one more layer is added to your network, and now your web browser is not in direct contact with the server. Because VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between you and the VPN's server, which then connects to the public Internet and allows you to retrieve the information which you have requested in the first place. The data is passed to your computer using that encrypted tunnel, making sure that no one will be able to intercept your web traffic. Also, this technique makes sure that the observer from whom you are retrieving the information on the Internet will see the IP address of the VPN and not yours. 

Suppose you are in the market searching for a VPN service. In that case, you will find many VPN services providing the basic VPN service along with ad-blocking, malware protection, and other benefits that will make your internet surfing completely anonymous. Due to a large number of VPN providers, we can make out one thing very clearly. People are buying these services as they don't trust the Internet with their IP addresses. Thus, if you are working on some critical project or your emails contain some crucial documents, then you must have a VPN connection to make your connectivity secure and private. 

 

This is what an IP address is all about, and it's a bridge between your machine and the Internet; without the IP address, you won't be able to connect to your favorite websites and access the information that you need. But surfing the suspicious website without keeping your IP address masked could potentially open your machine for web attacks. The Internet is growing at an exceptional rate, and people are using it to their advantage. You don't know the intentions of the other person on whose website you just visited. Thus, IP address masking is essential in the modern era of surfing the Internet. 

Antoniy Yushkevych

Master of word when it comes to technology, internet and privacy. I'm also your usual guy that always aims for the best result and takes a skateboard to work. If you need me, you will find me at the office's Counter-Strike championships on Fridays or at a.yushkevych@monovm.com