The IT industry is full of concepts that can be complicated at first glance. One of them is the IP address. We are sure you have heard of it, but are you clear about what an IP address is and what it is for?
We explain it to you in this article without detours so you understand it the first time.
Table of Contents
What is an IP address, and how does it work?
An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical string that identifies any device with an Internet connection as it communicates with other devices over the network.
IP addresses are used to guide data between networks, servers, and devices. In short, connections launched from a device know where they must go and how to return at any time. Without IP addresses, data would be lost because it would not know where to travel.
Therefore, IP addresses are like the postal codes of the Internet. Plus, they are like a fingerprint: unique. There are no two IP addresses the same; just like a vehicle’s license plate, each one has its own.
You should know that not only computers have an IP address, but also tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, printers and even web pages.
The IP is made up of four blocks of numbers spaced by dots, and each block can have up to three digits. To give you an idea, your IP address could be a code like 172.1.635.12 or 184.108.40.206.
Let’s delve deeper into the standards of the different IP addresses. In that case, we will see that until a while ago, IPv4 ( Internet Protocol Version 4) was used, which allows approximately 4.3 billion unique IP addresses.
Although it may seem like a lot, today, the number of devices that want to connect to the Internet is higher. In recent years, IPv6 has begun to be implemented, using eight blocks of 4 hexadecimal digits that theoretically offer 340 billion IP addresses. An example of an IPV6 IP address would be 5ffr: 1387: 6565: 8: 700: t4cc: fr54: 28gt.
How IP addresses work: example
Let’s see how IP addresses work with an example. When you connect to the Internet to send email, you are accessing a network that is connected to the Internet. This network is that of your provider, subsequently giving you Internet access.
That is, your computer does not connect to the Internet directly but through the network of an ISP (Internet Service Provider). It can be the network of your home Internet service provider, your company, or a cafeteria. You knock on your ISP’s door, and your ISP knocks on the Internet’s door and opens it for you.
To carry out this process of connecting and exchanging data and information, your computer follows a series of rules (protocols). Within that protocol, your IP address is used as a virtual address to establish that connection.
Finally, your ISP provider gives you access to the network and assigns you a unique IP address that will identify your device within the Internet. Thus, thanks to that IP, we can send and receive data without errors, knowing that it will not be lost among the millions of devices connected to the Internet at that time.
Types of IP addresses
There are several types of IP addresses. We are going to explain what each of them consists of.
Private IP address and public IP address
At the dawn of the Internet, developers believed each device connected to the network would have its unique IP address. However, as the number of devices enabled to connect to the Internet increased, they realized that IP addresses needed to be increased.
The result enabled private IP addresses for internal use and a public IP address for the Internet.
When you connect your smartphone to your home Wi-Fi, the router assigns you a private IP address that can only be seen by other devices within your local network. For example, a Wi-Fi printer will use that private IP address to accept requests from external devices like your computer.
Many users on the street have a device with the same private IP address as you, but this doesn’t cause a conflict because the networks are hidden.
In contrast, a public IP address is the address that other devices on the Internet see. This IP connects you to the world and is unique to you at that moment while you remain connected.
Static and dynamic IP addresses
When classifying the types of IP addresses, we can also establish the difference between dynamic and static.
Dynamic IP addresses change automatically for each connection, so they are only available for a limited time. Imagine that you connect to the Internet through your router at home, and your ISP assigns you a random IP that is free then.
When you end the connection session, that IP becomes available to another user and when you reaccess the network, your ISP will give you a different IP.
On the opposite side are static IP addresses that do not change automatically. These IP addresses are created manually (which is why they usually entail a higher financial cost). They are necessary when configuring a website, a data server or a virtual private network system known as a VPN.