What is an IP Address?

IP or Internet Protocol address is a unique identifying number that allows computing devices to communicate via a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. Practically, any device that’s connected to the IP network must have a unique IP address within the network. Think of it as the way someone would need your address to send you mail. It’s the same way that computing devices use the unique identifier, in this case, the IP address to send data to specific devices connected to a network.

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Today, most networks, including all computers on the internet use the TCP/IP protocol as the standard for communicating on the network.

Functions of an IP Address

An IP address basically serves two principal functions;

• Network Interface or Host Identification: As stated earlier, an IP address allows the identification of computing devices that use internet protocol for communication.

• Location Addressing: An IP address also allows computing devices that are connected to the internet to be identified on a location basis and differentiated from other devices.

An IP address consists of four numbers, with each containing one to three digits, with a single dot separating each set of digits or number. Each of the four numbers can range from 0 up to 255. A good example of an IP address is 102.95.7.204. It’s these special digits that allow you to send and retrieve data over internet connections and also allow you to know the exact location to which data has been sent or received from. It would be practically impossible to send and receive data over the World Wide Web without an IP address. That’s just how important the address is.

IP Address Versions

There are two standard versions of IP addresses: IP Version 4 (IPv4) and IP Version 6 (IPv6). Each version defines an IP address in a different manner. Currently, all computing devices with IP addresses have an IPv4 address; although others are have also begun using the IPv6 address as well.

IPv4 Address: The IPv4 address uses the 32 binary bits to create a single unique address on the network. It’s expressed by four numbers separated by single dots. Each of the numbers is the decimal (base-10) representation of an eight-digit binary number, also known as an octet. A good example of an IPv4 address is 189.46.78.137.

IPv6: The IPv6 address uses the 128 binary bits to create a single unique address on the network. The address is expressed by eight groups of hexadecimal (base-16) numbers which are separated by colons. A good example of an IPv6 address is 2000: dbce: 0000:0000:0000:0000:3978:7864. In some cases, the groups of numbers containing zeros are omitted to save space, since they tend to take up a lot of space. Instead, a colon is put to mark the gap. For example, the address with the zeros omitted would look like this- 2000: dbce: 3978:7864.

Static and Dynamic IP Addresses

An IP address can either be Static or Dynamic. Static addresses are those that you configure by editing your computer’s network settings. The addresses serve as a permanent internet address and provide a simple and reliable way for remote computing devices to communicate effectively with you. The static address reveals information such as the continent, country, region/city in which a computer is located, the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and the latitude and longitude of the specific country.

On the other hand, dynamic addresses are issued using a leasing system, meaning that they are temporary. In other words, they are assigned each time a computing device accesses the internet.

You don’t have to be a tech geek to learn what an IP address really is. Some basic information can be of great assistance to help you understand how computing devices send and retrieve data from over an IP network.