Why get a static IP address?

You would get a static IP address – i.e., a fixed Internet address rather than one dynamically assigned to you each time you connect – if you needed one.

If it’s static, that means it always stays the same, which makes it possible for users and other services to find you on the Internet. You’d need a static IP address if, for example, you were hosting your own website, running an e-commerce business, or setting-up an IP-based video surveillance camera.

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What is an IP address?

An IP number is a unique digital address for a specific point on the Internet.

IP stands for Internet Protocol. IP is the digital language that computers use to connect to each other on the Internet. It’s what makes the whole incredible network possible.

An IP address is a number that is used to identify a specific location on the Internet. It’s written out as four groups of numbers, separated by a dot. Each group can have between one and three digits. It’s a set of four hexadecimal numbers you will see if you look up your IP address, but each group (or ‘octet’ as they are also referred to) of digits will represent eight digits of a 32-bit binary number. In the end, everything in the digital world is represented by simple zeroes and ones.

As a footnote, it’s worth mentioning that the format described above is the one set out in IPv4. This is what is still used by most service providers for most connections today. The problem with IPv4 is that it only has those 32 bits, and the number of IP addresses is limited to around 4.3 billion. Believe it or not, we are getting close to using that allocation up.

As a consequence, IPv6 is being used more. This has six groups of numbers, so it’s addressing capability is much greater – around 340 trillion trillion trillion. It seems unlikely that we will run out of addresses at any time in the foreseeable future with IPv6.

In case you are wondering, IPv5 was never accepted by the IP standards body and before it could get back from the drawing board, work on IPv6 had advanced significantly. In short, there is no IPv5.

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The difference between static IP addresses and dynamic IP addresses

These terms are entirely descriptive: static = fixed; dynamic = changing. If you don’t have a static IP address, one will be allocated when you join the Internet. This is what happens with most connections, most of the time. They don’t need a fixed IP as no-one needs to find them out of the blue.

But of course, if you want to find a particular website, there has to be a way of doing that – and that’s what the static I provides. Static and dynamic IP addresses don’t look any different – it’s just that one is permanently fixed and assigned to a specific connection, the other will be different every time.

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Should I get a static IP address for my business?

If you need one, yes. If you want to host your own website or e-commerce site. Or if you provide a particular app or online service, for example, and want to manage it much more closely, you will need a static IP address.

If you want to host your own email server, for convenience and control or, more likely, for security reasons, a static IP address would be needed.

For any of these, you would need an IP address that can be found by anyone out on the Internet at any time. (Your server would also need to be up and running 24-hours a day).

Other reasons why you would want a static address include if you are running video surveillance or home camera. More businesses and households are doing this now and obviously, you will need to be able to connect directly to that device to see and hear what’s happening.

Static IP can also help make it easier to manage voice and video-conferencing calls and is probably something you should look have if you have quite a few users connecting all the time. It just makes the administration easier and reduces the chances of calls dropping in or out or connections being lost. Similarly, a static IP address will give you a more reliable and stable connection than a dynamically-allocated address.

Another reason you might want to consider a static IP address is to make it easier for remote users to connect to your internal systems. With a static IP address, VPNs or other software used for remote connectivity will always know where to find you. With more people now working at home, this may be a real driver for getting a static IP address now.

However, most businesses don’t need a static IP address as their website are hosted elsewhere, and even if they run an e-commerce site, or offer you own app or online service, that would also probably be hosted by a service provider – usually he one recommended by the company that provides the website service.

You might only want to have an email server in-house if what you do is of a particularly sensitive nature. You should also be aware that, if you do have your own servers on location, having a fixed IP address makes them easier for hackers and cybercriminals to target. You will need to make sure the servers are highly secure.

If you have a lot of home or remote workers connecting to the central systems every day, a static IP address might be very useful, but it’s not essential. As a general rule, the smaller your business, the less important a fixed address will be for remote connectivity.

Similarly, for VoIP and conferencing, a static IP address is not at all essential, especially if you only have a handful of users.

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How to get a static IP address?

Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will provide a static IP address as part of selected service offerings. Static IP may also be offered as an option. To get it, you may have to ask for it specifically. In some cases, ISPs will ask you to pay extra for a static IP address, but most of the time, they are provided as part of the overall package, which will typically be for a business-oriented, higher speed service.

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