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Static vs Dynamic IP Address: What’s the Difference?
By Tibor Moes / January 2023
Static vs Dynamic IP Address
You’ve probably heard of static and dynamic IP addresses. But like many other technical terms, it likely wasn’t clear what they mean. Simply put, an IP address identities a device or server.
This article will explain what IP addresses are and what differences are between static and dynamic ones.
- Devices need an identifiable number to communicate with each other over a network. This number is their IP address.
- The IP address is assigned to the device by the network it connects to. As this number can change over time, it’s called a dynamic IP address.
- Static IP addresses don’t change over time. These are rarely required. However, some servers only allow specific (whitelisted) IP addresses access to it. In that case, a static IP address is needed.
Tip: Don’t take risks online. Protect your devices against malware with antivirus software and safeguard your online privacy with a VPN.
IP Addresses Explained
Generally speaking, an IP address is the number your device receives when it connects to a network.
Once this unique number is assigned, it will act like a home address. Using IP addresses, computers and other devices on the network can connect and communicate with each other.
All IP addresses are stored in numerical form. After all, computers are largely based on numbers. But there’s a reason why you don’t see a string of numbers in the address bar of your browser whenever you visit a site.
IP addresses get assigned regular names made of words. These names are recognized and connected to the appropriate IP addresses through the Domain Name System (DNS).
In essence, the DNS serves as an address book. When you open the browser and enter a URL, the DNS connects the words you’ve put into a specific domain IP address.
Going back to the world of numbers, IP addresses may be IPv4 or IPv6. The former uses a set of four hexadecimal numbers while the later uses six numbers.
IPv6 came into existence more out of necessity than anything else. The IPv4 variant has over four billion addresses, which might sound like a large number at first. But the internet has become so widespread and developed that we’ve practically drained the capacity of IPv4.
That’s why IPv6 was introduced. The number of combinations in this system is so vast that it would take more time to use every address than the universe will exist.
After this brief description of IP addresses, let’s look at static and dynamic IP addresses in more detail.
What Are Static IP Addresses?
Static IP addresses are, as the name states, static. In other words, they don’t change. When a static IP address is assigned to a device, the number will remain the same as long as you don’t get a new device or network architecture.
Static IP addresses can be either IPv4 or IPv6, although IPv4 are more commonly used. You can get a static IP address through your internet service provider (ISP). In most cases, getting a static IP address will come with extra costs.
What Are Dynamic IP Addresses?
Similar to static IP addresses, the nature of dynamic IP addresses is largely revealed in the name.
These addresses can change when needed, and the change can happen rather quickly. The dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) can assign addresses according to network requirements.
You might wonder why we use dynamic IP addresses if static IP addresses exist. The reason is quite straightforward: IPv4 doesn’t have the capacity to provide a static IP address to every device.
This is why only the main device within a network (usually the server) will have a static IP address. All other devices that connect to the internet through that server will receive dynamic IP addresses.
Imagine, for example, you were in a hotel. Of course, there will be a Wi-Fi connection there, provided by the hotel server with a static IP address. But when you connect to the Wi-Fi, your device will get assigned a dynamic IP address.
Dynamic IP addresses are currently the standard since the present-day network infrastructure doesn’t allow for every device to have a static IP address.
Static and Dynamic IP addresses: Pros and Cons
Current technological limitations aren’t the only reason why most devices don’t have static IP addresses. Even though they sound great, these addresses have certain shortcomings. In the same way, dynamic IP addresses may be better for specific uses.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each IP address type.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Static IP Addresses
A static IP address may be more convenient in several ways:
It provides better DNS support, which means DNS servers can set these addresses up more easily and manage them with fewer issues.
Static IP addresses are ideal for server hosting. If you have an email, web, or any other type of server set up with a static IP address, customers will have an easier time finding you through the DNS. This translates into easier access to your services and websites.
You can enjoy more convenient remote access. Using different programs for remote access such as VPNs becomes effortless with a static IP address.
Static IP addresses make it straightforward to use communication protocols like the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Hence, video and voice communication are seamless, which can be especially useful for teleconferences and similar events.
You can get more precise geolocation services when using a static address. This is because static IP addresses allow various services to pinpoint your physical location. If you’ve ever looked at a weather forecast app and got a report for the wrong city, that might be because you were using a dynamic IP address and the service couldn’t determine where you were.
Granted, a static IP address doesn’t come only with benefits. There are some shortcomings that are very much worth mentioning:
You might be more prone to hacking attacks with a static IP address. Simply put, a hacker can find out the precise location of your server on the internet. That’s why getting a static IP address should go hand in hand with a reliable internet security solution.
Internet providers will likely charge extra for a static IP address. This is especially true with ISP plans geared towards consumers. But a static address will be more expensive even in business plans, where it’s usually either a part of the package or an available option.
Devices connected via a static address may be risky in terms of real-world security. With the right tools, anyone could get your physical location from your static address. For that reason, it’s recommended to use a virtual private network (VPN) in combination with static addresses.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Dynamic IP Addresses
Similar to the static type, dynamic IP addresses have their pros and cons. Let’s start with the advantages:
The dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) server can set up a dynamic IP address for your device in an instant. The address is automatically configured without any action required on your part.
Dynamic IP addresses are typically more affordable. Being the default type of addresses, they come with no extra costs or fees.
There’s no limitation on dynamic IP addresses. They can be reused as many times as necessary. Imagine the following situation: You have a computer that’s usually connected to your home network. Of course, that device has an IP address assigned to it. One day, you get a new computer and want to hook it up to the same network. If you had a static address, you’d need to delete the old device manually and assign a new number to the new computer. However, with dynamic IP addresses, your internet service provider or router will add the new device automatically, assigning it a new IP address.
While a dynamic IP address doesn’t necessarily represent a security improvement, it may still make your system a bit safer. Dynamic IP addresses make it harder for hackers to break into the network devices connect. Plus, you can still use a VPN to make any breaches even more complicated.
On the same note, dynamic IP addresses don’t reveal the user’s real location. Consequently, even if ill-minded people discover your dynamic IP address, they won’t know where you are physically.
Like static IPs, a dynamic IP address has some disadvantages:
Hosted services might present an issue. Hosting your own servers could be problematic if you’re doing it through a dynamic IP address. When you want to set up a web server (or email server for that matter), the DNS might have trouble working with a dynamic address. Dynamic DNS servers might represent a solution, but they make matters more complicated and introduce extra expenses.
Remote access could be challenging. A dynamic IP address won’t fare well when paired with a remote access solutions program simply because your address will keep on changing. This issue may be solved by using a VPN.
Internet service providers aren’t always able to assign a dynamic IP address. This could result in your internet connection failing. While brief downtime might be only a slight nuisance for private users, it may create more issues for businesses.
A dynamic IP address doesn’t show your precise location, which can make accurate geolocation services nigh impossible.
Finding Out Whether You Have a Static or Dynamic IP Address
If you’re a private user with an ISP contract, chances are your internet protocol address is dynamic. Still, you might want to check and find out if that’s the case. Here’s how to do just that on a Windows PC.
First, you should enter the Command Prompt. Then, type in “ipconfig/all” and press enter.
You’ll see a list of internet protocol configurations. Near the bottom of the list, there will be a “DHCP enabled” line. This option may be marked with “Yes” or “No.”
If your DHCP server is enabled, your address will be dynamic. And if the DHCP isn’t enabled, the address will be static.
Once you find out whether you have a static or dynamic IP address, you may want to change it. But this won’t be possible to do on your own if your IP address is provided by a cable company or an ISP.
In that case, you’ll need to contact your provider and ask for options to change the IP address.
However, you can change your IP address if it’s provided by your router. As explained earlier, devices connected to a server or router get a dynamic IP address by default. If you have access to router settings, you may change the desired IP address to a static one.
If you wish to assign a static IP address to your devices, remember that keeping the same IP address may open certain security breaches. To stay as secure as possible online, it would be best to equip your device with the proper tools, including a VPN.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to have a static or dynamic IP?
Both types of IP addresses have their advantages. You should use a static IP address if you plan to host websites or emails, but dynamic IP addresses are better at maintaining online privacy.
When should I use a static IP address?
Static IP addresses are most suitable for hosting different services. Since your IP address doesn’t change, it’s much easier to maintain a reliable connection, making your hosted services more stable.
Is a dynamic IP address good?
Dynamic IP addresses are excellent if you want fast connectivity and greater online security. With a dynamic address, your real location will be less visible, and your network will be better protected from intrusions.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.
He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.
This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.
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