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What Is an IP Address?

An Internet Protocol address is a unique address that computing devices such as PCs, tablets, smartphones, or anything that can connect to the Internet use to identify themselves and communicate with other devices in the IP network. No two devices can have the same IP address on the same IP network. You can describe the IP address as like your telephone number (including its international code) in that it is used to uniquely identify you globally. 

There are two standards of IP addressing already in use. The IPv4 standard, which is the most used one, is already supported everywhere on the Internet and can accommodate a maximum of 4.3 billion addresses. Apparently, this number of addresses is not enough in today’s digital world, especially after the explosive growth of IoT devices. This resulted in another standard being developed named IPv6, which can accommodate more than 7.9×1028 times as many as IPv4. 

IPv4 addresses consist of 4 bytes (32 bits), while IPv6 addresses are 16 bytes (128 bits) long. Up to now, the majority of online services are still using IPv4, and the adoption of IPv6 is still moving slowly. When connecting to the Internet, you either use the same IP address each time (static IP) or use a different number each time (known as dynamic IP). 

A static IP address is an address assigned by your Internet service provider (ISP) and does not change over time; you can consider it like your phone number, which remains fixed (until the provider withdraws it from you). Static addresses are usually used by businesses, public organizations, and IT companies that offer IT services to individuals and the private sector. For example, a server hosting websites or providing e-mail services needs a static IP address. To use a static IP address, you need to manually configure your router or server to use it. 

By contrast, a dynamic IP address is assigned dynamically by your ISP whenever you connect to the Internet. It uses a protocol called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to assign you a new IP address every time your computing device or router gets rebooted. Some ISPs may allocate the same IP number previously assigned to you many times, but this is not a rule of thumb. 

To determine whether you are assigned a dynamic or static IP address, disconnect your Internet connection from your computing device (you can also reboot your router), reconnect, and then check your IP address again.

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