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What Is an IP Address? The Basics You Need to Know

WRITTEN BY
Daren Low
UPDATED
April 15, 2024

 

In this day and age, you’ve surely heard of the term ‘IP address’. You don’t need to be a computer major student or tech professional – if you’re browsing the internet or building websites, you’ve come across IP addresses. But what are they, exactly?

 

Today, we’re breaking IP addresses in the easiest and simplest terms possible.

 

We’ll cover:

 

 

Let’s get started!

 

What is an IP address?

 

An internet protocol address – otherwise known as an IP address – is a series of numbers separated by periods that looks something like this: 123.456.7.89.

 

An IP address serves as the identifier of our devices, such as computers, mobile phones, tablets, and smart TVs. When a device is connected to the internet, its IP address allows the internet to send and receive the message and date to the right location.

 

To give an analogy, an IP address is like the zipcode of our residential or office address that lets the mail delivery people identify the specific location they should deliver our online purchases and mails.

 

IP address diagram

(credit: Squirrels)

 

The internet service provider assigns a unique IP address to your home or a business network, then the devices connected to the network such as computers and mobile phones also have IP addresses.

 

Note

Discover the extent of what can be done with your IP address.

 

 

Examples of an IP address: IPv4 vs IPv6

 

IPv4 and IPv6 are two versions of IP addresses. Let’s take a look at some examples of IP addresses and how you can look them up.

 

What are IPv4 IP addresses?

 

IPv4 stands for IP version 4, and is the most common version and the original IP address numbering structure.

 

IPv4 consists of four numbers with one to three digits separated by a dot. Each number ranges from 0 to 225, thus, a full IP address may range from 0.0.0.0 to 225.225.225.225.

 

IPv4 addresses were reported to support approximately 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. However, with the unending innovation of the world, we seem to have maxed out all combinations from 0.0.0.0 to 225.225.225.225 and run out of IP addresses.

 

So, What are IPv6 IP addresses?

 

Then along came IPv6, which was first introduced in 1998 and deployed in the mid 2000s.

 

This newer version of IP was created to deal with the shortage of IPv4 addresses.

 

Compared to the 32-bit numeric code of IPv4, IPv6 uses a 128-bit hexadecimal format consisting of a series of numbers and letters combined and separated by colons.

 

An IPv6 address looks something like: 2022:di4:0:1117:0:111:2:6.

 

This means IPv6 can provide trillions and trillions (or maybe limitless) of IP addresses. This allows it to connect an unimaginable number of additional websites, computers, mobile phones, and whatever technology in the future requires the use of IP addresses.

 

 

How To Look Up Your IP Address

 

Now – let’s identify how to look up your IP address and to check whether your device is on an IPv4 or IPv6 IP.

 

There are various ways to look for your IP address.

 

Method 1: From your device’s network settings

 

The first method is to check directly from the network setting of the device. Just keep in mind that it differs for each device. Listed below are the steps to locate the IP address for various devices:

 

Windows

 

  1. Click the Windows key and search type “cmd” without the quotation mark.
  2. Click the Command Prompt and type “ipconfig” without the quotation mark in the pop up box to find the information.

 

Mac

 

  1. Go to Systems Preferences and select Network to find the information.

 

iPhone

 

  1. Go to Settings and select Wi-Fi.
  2. Tap the “i” inside the circle next to the network to find the IP address under the DHCP tab.

 

Method 2: Use an IP-Checking website

 

But if you opt for the easier way, there are a variety of websites to look for your IP address, such as WhatIsMyIPAddress and WhatIsMyIP, to name a few.

 

Whatsmyipaddress homepage

Sites like WhatIsMyIPAddress will easily tell you your IP address.

 

 

Private IP addresses vs. Public IP addresses

 

If your device is connected to both the internet and local network, then it has two IP addresses: the public IP address on the internet and the private IP address on the local network.

 

But what are public and private IP addresses?

 

Just imagine an apartment building where there are several people living together. The address of the building can be used by everyone residing in the building whenever they have to receive mail. When put in the context of a public IP address, it is the primary address assigned to the router by the internet service provider.

 

Meanwhile, a private IP address is the address generated by the router to identify and recognize the difference of each device connected to it.

 

Going back to the example of an apartment building, despite several people living in it and having only one address, the receiver can still receive their mail appropriately since they have a specific apartment number that is different from the other people residing inside the building.

 

 

Dedicated IP addresses vs. Shared IP addresses

 

A dedicated IP address – otherwise known as a static IP address – is commonly used for business devices and websites, since it is fixed and doesn’t change.

 

With this, a dedicated IP address is an advantage to businesses because it can keep the network connection stable. This can result in smoother online meetings, working remotely, and sharing and the transferring of huge files to multiple people within the organization.

 

On the other hand, the shared IP address – otherwise known as the dynamic IP address – is the opposite. It changes automatically from time to time depending on the availability of IPs assigned by the internet service provider.

 

A shared IP address is typically used by devices connected to a home network and websites that use the services of web hosting providers.

 

 

IP addresses VS. nameservers and domain names

 

It’s easy to get confused at the relationship between IP addresses, nameservers, and domain names.

 

The relation of these three is like you (as the domain name) are looking up on your contact list (as the nameservers) to call your friend (as the IP address).

 

  1. The domain name refers to the website address which the users type in the search bar to go to a website or page.
  2.  

  3. Meanwhile, a nameserver is the assigned server to look for the website using the domain name. It plays a significant part in the domain name system for it allows the use of domain names (like bitcatcha.com) instead of memorizing a series of numbers in the IP addresses to access a website or page.

 

For more on this – check our article all about DNS records.

 

 

Do web hosts provide an IP address?

 

Let’s quickly remind ourselves what web hosting is.

 

Web hosting is purchasing or renting a space from a service provider to house a website in a server, in order for the contents to be visible online.

 

To answer if the web hosts provide an IP address, the answer is that it depends on the web hosting service provider. These service providers usually offer a variety of packages for their clients to choose from. There are providers that offer a package with a shared IP address and there are some offering a dedicated IP address.

 

However, don’t get confused with terms such as ‘shared web hosting’ or ‘dedicated web hosting’ as these terms don’t necessarily relate to IPs in the same way.

 

 

Final thoughts: How to protect your IP address

 

Do you feel like a computer professional or, at least, an expert on IP addresses after this?

 

And do you think that we’ll still come to the point that we will use up all the IP addresses again, given the new version that we currently have?

 

As technology becomes a bigger part of our daily lives, so hackers or cyber criminals, invasion of privacy, and such also arise. This means that – as well as understanding what an IP address is – it’s important that we also know how to protect it.

 

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), proxy server, updating your router and firewall rules, and adding security layers are just some of the ways to protect your IP address.

 

Overall, IP address, how it works, and how to protect it is very useful for everyone, since it plays a significant role for your device as for your personal information. We hope we helped!