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What is a IP Address? [explained]

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. 

VPS Tutorials Nov 09, 16 by admin 9 min Read
What is a IP Address? [explained]

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. 

An IP address serves two principal functions, which are host or network interface identification and location addressing. Its role has been characterized as follows:

  • Name that indicates what we seek? 
  • An address that indicates where it is? 
  • A route that indicates how to get there? 

Each Dedicated Server, Windows VPS, Linux VPS, or routers on the internet can have one or multiple IP addresses. The designers of the Internet Protocol defined an IP address as a 32-bit number. This system, known as Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4), is still in use today. 

However, because of the growth of the internet and the predicted depletion of available addresses, a new version of IP (IPv6), using 128 bits for the address, was developed in 1995. IPv6 was standardized as RFC 2460 in 1998, and its deployment has been ongoing since the mid-2000s. 

IP addresses are usually written and displayed in human-readable notations, such as 172.16.254.1 (IPv4) and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 (IPv6). The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) manages the IP address space allocations globally. It delegates five regional Internet registries (RIRs) to allocate IP address blocks to local Internet registries (Internet service providers) and other entities. In this guide, we will include and explain everything about IP addresses. 

What is IP Address?

An IP address is a set of numbers used for labelling any device connected to the network in which Internet Protocols are used as a communication medium. The full form of IP is Internet Protocol, which was developed in the 1970s and worked as the internet protocol’s cornerstone, providing information about how a device exchanges information on the internet. All of the devices connected on the internet connection have a specific IP address, which means that there are billions of IP addresses available.

There are two IP addresses IPv4 and IPv6, which we will explain later in this guide. IPv4 is an older version that has a space of more than four billion IP addresses. Now, IPv6 is replacing IPv4 as it can provide more than trillions of IP addresses that can fulfil the requirements of internet users. The Pv4 version of the IP address is used for configuring the IP addresses in a numerical value that may conflict with the other IP addresses. Hence, Ipv6 uses the IPv6 method to give a unique IP address to trillions of users worldwide.

Types of IP Address

There are different types of IP address and they are:

Private IP Address

It is a type of IP address of a device that is connected to a business or home network. If a user has different devices connected to a single ISP or Internet Service Provider, then all of the devices will have a specific private IP address. Anyone cannot access the private IP address from the devices outside the user’s business or home network. However, a private IP address is not unique as there are limited devices on the same network. 

You can find your device’s private IP address through a few techniques, and in case you are a Windows user, then open the command prompt and execute the ipconfig command. If you have a mac, then enter ifconfig in the terminal app. In Android, go to the WiFi settings, and you get the IP address in it. In iOS, top on the ‘i’ button next to the connected network and find the IP address. 

Public IP Address

It is the main IP address on which a business or home network is connected. The public IP address works to connect a device with the world, and there is a specific IP address for all of the users. You can find out the public IP address using multiple tools and software. 

Static & Dynamic IP Addresses 

An IP address can be static or dynamic. A static IP address will never change, and it is a permanent Internet address. A dynamic IP address is a temporary address assigned each time a computer or device accesses the Internet. The four numbers in an IP address are used in different ways to identify a particular network and a host on that network. Four regional Internet registries -- ARIN, RIPE NCC, LACNIC, and APNIC-- assign Internet addresses from the following three classes: 

  • Class A: Supports 16 million hosts on each of 126 networks.
  • Class B: Supports 65,000 hosts on each of 16,000 networks.
  • Class C: Supports 254 hosts on each of 2 million networks.

The number of unassigned Internet addresses is running out, so a new classless scheme called CIDR is gradually replacing the system based on classes A, B, and C and is tied to the adoption of IPv6. In IPv6, the IP address size is increased from 32 bits to 128 bits. 

IP versions

There are two IP versions which are IPv4 addresses and IPv6 addresses, so now we will explain the complete information about these IP versions:

IPv4 Addresses

In IPv4, an address consists of 32 bits which limit the address space to 4294967296 (232) possible unique addresses. IPv4 reserves some addresses for special purposes, such as private networks (~18 million addresses) or multicast addresses (~270 million addresses).

IPv4 addresses are canonically represented in dot-decimal notation, consisting of four decimal numbers, each ranging from 0 to 255, separated by dots, e.g., 172.16.254.1. Each part represents a group of 8 bits (octet) of the address. In some cases of technical writing, IPv4 addresses may be presented in various hexadecimal, octal, or binary representations.

IPv6 Addresses

The rapid exhaustion of IPv4 address space prompted the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to explore new technologies to expand the addressing capability on the Internet. The permanent solution was deemed to be a redesign of the Internet Protocol itself.

This new generation of the Internet Protocol was eventually named Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) in 1995. The address size was increased from 32 to 128 bits (16 octets), thus providing up to 2128 (approximately 3.403×1038) addresses. It is deemed sufficient for the foreseeable future. 

The new design intent was not to provide just a sufficient quantity of addresses but also redesign routing on the Internet by more efficient aggregation of subnetwork routing prefixes. It resulted in slower growth of routing tables in routers. 

The smallest possible individual allocation is a subnet for 264 hosts, which is the square of the size of the entire IPv4 Internet. At these levels, actual address utilization rates will be small on any IPv6 network segment. The new design also provides the opportunity to separate the addressing infrastructure of a network segment, i.e., the local administration of the segment's available space, from the addressing prefix used to route traffic to and from external networks. 

IPv6 has facilities that automatically change the routing prefix of entire networks, should the global connectivity or the routing policy change, without requiring internal redesign or manual renumbering. A large number of IPv6 addresses allows large blocks to be assigned for specific purposes and, where appropriate, to be aggregated for efficient routing. 

There is no need to have complex address conservation methods as used in CIDR with a large address space. All modern desktop and enterprise server operating systems include native support for the IPv6 protocol. Still, it is not yet widely deployed in other devices, such as residential networking routers, voice over IP (VoIP) and multimedia equipment, and network peripherals.  

Conclusion 

So it was the complete information on the IP address and its versions. As we have mentioned earlier, every device has a unique IP address, and this address contains numbers to specify a device on the internet. There are multiple types of IP addresses which we have already discussed in the above section. Apart from it, IPv4 and IPv6 are two IP versions for the devices. People chose IPv6 instead of IPv4 as it provides trillions of IP addresses without having any trouble and offers a vast range of varieties in the IP addresses. According to the research, IPv6 is fulfilling the requirement, but we will need another version in the future because of the increasing number of devices. There are trillions of devices with specific IP addresses, which is still increasing as the number of devices is growing. 

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