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IP Address | What It Is Plus How It Usually Works In Detail

Of course, the majority of us routinely use an IP Address in one way or another while connecting online. However, only a few can expressively define it and its uses to satisfaction. But, don’t worry! You are not all alone in this. For one thing, in this guide, we are going to boil down everything so that you can have a full understanding of what it is and how it usually works.

After all, most of the billions of computer users don’t know either, and to tell you the truth, that’s perfectly alright. Simply, because even though it’s your passport to the Internet, you never have to think about it. This is among the last things — though remarkably useful to those using the internet on a daily basis — that you would try to think about. So, follow the leads.

Surprisingly, your computer is hooked up to the Internet, one way or the other. When you go online to do a few emails here and there, do some internet shopping, or even chat with a friend over the web, your request has to be sent out to the right destination. And also, the responses and information are handled elsewhere so they won’t need to come back directly to you.

Technically, an IP address plays a significant role in all that. And now, with that in mind, let’s dive in so that you can learn more about the necessities of these tools. So, that the next time you engage online, you’ll have a  clue.

What An IP Address Is All About

An IP Address is a unique address that identifies a device on the internet or a local network. On one side, the ‘IP’ part stands for “Internet Protocol,” which is the set of rules governing the format of data sent through the internet or local network. On the other hand, the “Address” part refers to a “Unique Number” that gets linked to all online activities.

It’s somewhat like a return address on a letter you’d send out. Bear in mind, that all these activities happen in milliseconds. It’s also, important to realize, that every machine on a network has a unique identifier. And just as you would address a letter to send in the mail, computers use the unique identifier too. In that case, to send data to specific computers on a network.

In essence, IP Addresses are the identifier that allows data to be sent between devices on a network: they contain location information and make devices accessible for communication. The internet needs a way to differentiate between different computers, routers, and websites. IPs provide a way of doing so and are an essential part of how the internet works.


Below Is A Review Video Guide By Cisco That Elaborates Further


According to Kaspersky, Internet Protocol works the same way as any other language, by communicating using set guidelines to pass information. All devices find, send, and exchange information with other connected devices using this protocol. By speaking the same language, any computer in any location can talk to one another. Everything works behind the scenes.

Moving on, most networks today, including all computers on the Internet, use the TCP/IP protocol as the standard for how communicating on the network. Following a list of built-in networking standards and rules (yes, protocols). In that case, to connect to the Internet, and to swap information and data back and forth.

One of those networking protocols on your computer, the Internet Protocol, is responsible for addressing, delivering, and routing your online requests precisely. It attaches an “electronic return address” to all your online requests and activity for you. The address it uses is the IP Address for your connection. Today, there is a variety of IP Address Types for various uses.

1. Consumer IP Addresses

Every individual or business with an internet service plan will have two types of IP addresses: their private IP addresses and their public IP address. The terms public and private relate to the network location — that is, a private IP address is used inside a network, while a public one is used outside a network.

2. Private IP Addresses

Every device that connects to your internet network has a private IP address. This includes computers, smartphones, and tablets but also any Bluetooth-enabled devices like speakers, printers, or smart TVs. With the growing internet of things, the number of private IP addresses you have at home is probably growing. Your router needs a way to identify these items separately, and many items need a way to recognize each other. Therefore, your router generates private IP addresses that are unique identifiers for each device that differentiate them on the network.

3. Public IP Addresses

A public IP address is a primary address associated with your whole network. While each connected device has its own IP address, they are also included within the main IP address for your network. As described above, your public IP address is provided to your router by your ISP. Typically, ISPs have a large pool of IP addresses that they distribute to their customers. Your public IP address is the address that all the devices outside your internet network will use to recognize your network. Notably, public IP addresses come in two forms – dynamic and static.

3.1. Dynamic IP Addresses

Dynamic IP addresses change automatically and regularly. ISPs buy a large pool of IP addresses and assign them automatically to their customers. Periodically, they re-assign them and put the older IP addresses back into the pool to be used for other customers. The rationale for this approach is to generate cost savings for the ISP. Automating the regular movement of IP addresses means they don’t have to carry out specific actions to re-establish a customer’s IP address if they move home, for example. There are security benefits, too, because a changing IP address makes it harder for criminals to hack into your network interface.

3.2. Static IP Addresses

In contrast to dynamic IP addresses, static addresses remain consistent. Once the network assigns an IP address, it remains the same. Most individuals and businesses do not need a static IP address, but for businesses that plan to host their own server, it is crucial to have one. This is because a static IP address ensures that websites and email addresses tied to it will have a consistent IP address — vital if you want other devices to be able to find them consistently on the web. This leads to the next point – which is the two types of website IP addresses.

4. Website IP Addresses

For website owners who don’t host their own server, and instead rely on a web hosting package – which is the case for most websites – there are two types of website IP addresses. These are shared and dedicated.

4.1. Shared IP Addresses

Websites that rely on shared hosting plans from web hosting providers will typically be one of many websites hosted on the same server. This tends to be the case for individual websites or SME websites, where traffic volumes are manageable, and the sites themselves are limited in terms of the number of pages, etc. Websites hosted in this way will have shared IP addresses.

4.2. Dedicated IP Addresses

Some web hosting plans have the option to purchase a dedicated IP address (or addresses). This can make obtaining an SSL certificate easier and allows you to run your own File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server. This makes it easier to share and transfer files with multiple people within an organization and allows anonymous FTP sharing options. A dedicated IP address also allows you to access your website using the IP address alone rather than the domain name — useful if you want to build and test it before registering your domain.

What Is A TCP/IP Protocol?

Abbreviated as TCP/IP, the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol is a suite of communication protocols. Used to interconnect network devices on the internet. TCP/IP can also be used as a communications protocol in a private computer network (an intranet or an extranet). TCP/IP specifies how data is exchanged over the internet.

By providing end-to-end communications that identify how it should be broken into packets. Such as, addressed, transmitted, routed, and received at the destination. And with the ability to recover automatically from the failure of any device on the networkThe functions of the two main protocols are very defined and clear.

First, TCP defines how applications can create channels of communication across a network. It also manages how a message is assembled into smaller packets before they are then transmitted over the internet and reassembled in the right order at the destination address. Secondly, IP defines how to address and route each packet to make sure it reaches the right destination.

Each gateway computer on the network checks this IP address to determine where to forward the message. By the same token, there is also a subnet mask that tells a computer, or other network devices, what portion of the IP address is used.


A Video Tutorial About How A Message Is Broken Down For Transmission


And now, with that in mind, a Network Address Translator (NAT) is the virtualization of Internet Protocol addresses. Mainly, NAT helps improve security and decrease the number of IP addresses an organization needs.

The most common types of TCP/IP are as follows:
  • HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) handles the communication between a web server and a web browser.
  • HTTPS (Secure HTTP) handles secure communication between a web server and a web browser.
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol) handles the transmission of files between computers.

So, how do you note an IP Address? Well, an IP Address is coined by the network and host address components plus a subnet mask that separates the IP address into the network and host addresses (<network><host>).

Subnetting further divides the host part of an IP Address into a subnet and host address (<network><subnet><host>) if an additional subnetwork is needed. Use the Subnet Calculator to retrieve subnetwork information from the IP Address and Subnet Mask.

A Subnet Mask is a 32-bit number that masks an IP address and divides the IP address into the network address and host address. Subnet Mask is made by setting network bits to all “1”s and setting host bits to all “0”s. Within a given network, two host addresses are reserved for a special purpose. And therefore, it cannot be assigned to hosts.

The “0” address is assigned to a network address and the “255” is assigned to a broadcast address, and they cannot be assigned to hosts. Examples of commonly used netmasks for classed networks are the 8-bit (Class A), the 16-bits (Class B), the 24-bits (Class C), and now the classless networks.

IPv4 Addresses

Chances are that when you see an IP address, it’s an IPv4 address. This is the most common version of the protocol used today, despite the fact that it was introduced all the way back in the 1980s. IPv4 addresses are comprised of 32 bits, which means there are a little over 4.29 billion possible IPv4 addresses. An IPv4 address is comprised of four numbers.

Specifically, separated by periods, such as 192.168.10.1. Each number can have a value anywhere from 0-255, meaning that they’re each equal to one byte. See our explanation of computer file sizes if you’re not familiar with this.

IPv4 and IPv6 Addresses

IPv4 and IPv6 are simply different versions of IP addresses. When IP addresses were first created, all of them were IPv4. It consists of 4 sets of numbers, ranging between 0 and 255, and would appear as something like “192.168.1.1”.

Due to the enormous growth of internet-connected devices, there simply aren’t enough IPv4 addresses. Entities in charge of the IP standard have introduced a variety of ways to combat this. One of them is IPv6, the latest version of the standard.

IPv6 Addresses

IPv6 is the newer version of IP addresses and is represented by 8 groups of 4 hexadecimal digits (for example 2001:cdba:85a3:0370:0000:0000:3257:9652). So, compared to the 32-bit value of an IPv4 address, IPv6 addresses are made up of 128 bits. This means that an enormous amount of IPv6 addresses are available—340 undecillion, or 3.4 x 1038.

That’s exponentially more than IPv4 offers, meaning we won’t run out of IPv6 addresses for some time. An IPv6 address is comprised of eight groups of hexadecimal digits, separated by colons. Instead of base 10 numbers like we’re used to, hexadecimal uses the values A through F to represent 10 through 15.

The creation of IPv6 was necessary because there are only around 4 billion possible combinations of unique IPv4 addresses. This isn’t enough for the needs of the internet as more addresses get taken up. On the other hand, IPv6 allows for many more possible combinations of addresses — 3.4 x 1038 to be exact.

Even though IPv6 has several advantages like increased speed and security, it will take some time before IPv4 is completely abandoned. A full transition is complicated as ISPs, data centers, and device manufacturers need to upgrade their costly infrastructure to support IPv6. That’s why both versions will continue to co-exist together in the years to come.

To support the switch, ISP networks use dual stacking technology to enable connections for both IPv4 and IPv6. This means you may sometimes see your IP address swapping between the 2 versions.

Private Vs Public IP Address

In the early days of networking, developers thought that every internet-connected device would have its own unique IP address. However, as more internet-enabled devices appeared, it turned out that there weren’t enough IP addresses to go around. As a result, networks use both private addresses for internal use and public address for the internet at large.

When you connect a device to Wi-Fi at your home, the router assigns the device an IP address, such as 192.168.1.120. This is a private address that only other devices on your network can see. Chances are that many people on your street have a device with the same private IP address as yours, but this isn’t a conflict because the networks are hidden from each other.

In contrast to this is your public IP Address. This is the address that other devices on the internet see you as, no matter what device in your home you’re using. For example, whether you download a file from a website using your iPad or establish a remote connection to another computer on your desktop, the other device sees your single public IP in both cases.

Your router uses Network Address Translation (NAT) to help public and private addresses work in tandem. Essentially, the router interprets incoming requests and sends them to the right device on your network. In this way, each network only takes up one unique public IP address, while allowing dozens of devices on that network to get online privately.

What Is IP Network Subnetting?

The meaning of Subnetting an IP network is to separate a big network into smaller multiple networks for reorganization and security purposes. All nodes (hosts) in a subnetwork see all packets transmitted by any node in a network. The performance of a network is adversely affected under heavy traffic load due to collisions and retransmissions.

Applying a subnet mask to an IP address separates the network address from the host address. The network bits are represented by the 1’s in the mask, and the host bits are represented by 0’s. Performing a bitwise logical AND operation on the IP address with the subnet mask produces the network address. Your IP address is assigned to your device by your ISP.

As an example, applying the Class C subnet mask to our IP address 216.3.128.12 produces the following network address:

See This Illustration Sample:
IP:   1101 1000 . 0000 0011 . 1000 0000 . 0000 1100  (216.003.128.012)

Mask: 1111 1111 . 1111 1111 . 1111 1111 . 0000 0000  (255.255.255.000)

      ---------------------------------------------

      1101 1000 . 0000 0011 . 1000 0000 . 0000 0000  (216.003.128.000)

You may use the Subnet Calculator to ease your calculation. Currently, all VPNs can only support IPv4 connections. So if you try to establish an IPv6 connection with another device or website, the VPN will ignore the request which could lead to an IP leak. To solve this issue, VPNs need to block IPv6 traffic and only reroute IPv4 traffic.

However, not all VPNs provide this feature — which is why it’s important to choose a good-quality VPN with IPv6 leak protection to ensure that both your security and safety is a guarantee.

What Your IP Address Reveals About You

When you search for your IP address online, the result that you get will be your public (or global) IP address. Just like how every apartment within a block shares the same street address, all devices (e.g. laptops, smartphones, or tablets) within the same network use the same public IP address. It is assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to be precise.

And it can be seen by anyone on the internet — including hackers or government surveillance agencies. However, all devices also need a unique identifier to differentiate themselves to communicate on the same network — just like how each apartment within a block has a specific unit number. That’s why your router also assigns individual private IP Addresses.

Or rather, local IP addresses to each device. Unlike a public IP address, your private IP address can’t be seen by others on the internet. So, what information does your IP Address usually reveals about you? Let’s elaborate further.

A. Who You Really Are

Surprisingly, through ISP Tracking, your Internet Service Provider is able to piece together even more information about you because it has your name, exact address, and credit card information. All it needs to do is look at the browsing history associated with your IP address and it’s actually able to link everything you do online to your identity. This includes which sites you visit, what you buy, or what you torrent. In certain countries (like Australia, Canada, and the UK), they’re even required by law to log your online information.

B. Where You Basically Are

At the most basic level, your IP address reveals the country you’re in, your city, as well as your postal code. That’s why you often see ads that are localized to your location. For example, you always see ads for your local restaurant, and not one in a different country. However, that’s not all your IP address reveals about you — every single thing you do online is linked to it.

C. What You Are Doing Online

Websites and advertisers aren’t just trying to see your physical location from your IP address — to know where you’re going online. One of the ways they gather this information about you is by using cookies and IP tracking technology to “follow” your IP address around the internet. With this data, it learns about your browsing habits to send even more specific ads to cater to what it thinks you’re interested in. Alternatively, it could even sell all this information to other advertisers.

How To Look Up IP Addresses

The simplest way to check your router’s public IP address is to search “What is my IP address?” on Google. Google will show you the answer at the top of the page. Other websites will show you the same information: they can see your public IP address because, by visiting the site, your router has made a request and therefore revealed the information.

The site IP Location goes further by showing the name of your ISP and your city. Generally, you will only receive an approximation of location using this technique — where the provider is, but not the actual device location. If you are doing this, remember to log out of your VPN too. Obtaining the actual physical location address for the public IP address has steps.

Usually, it requires a search warrant to be submitted to the ISP. Be that as it may, finding your private IP address varies from platform to platform as we’ll elaborate further as shown below.

In Windows:
  • Use the command prompt.
  • Search for “cmd” (without the quotes) using the Windows search
  • In the resulting pop-up box, type “ipconfig” (no quote marks) to find the information.
On a Mac:
  • Go to System Preferences
  • Select the network – and the information should be visible.
On an iPhone:
  • Go to Settings
  • Select Wi-Fi and click the “i” in a circle () next to the network you are on
  • The IP address should now be visible under the DHCP tab.

If you need to check the IP addresses of other devices on your network, go into the router. How you access the router depends on the brand and the software it uses. Generally, you should be able to type the router’s gateway IP address into a web browser on the same network to access it. From there, you will need to navigate to something like “attached devices,” which should display a list of all the devices currently or recently attached to the network — including their IP addresses.

The Most Common IP Address Security Threats

In reality, Cybercriminals can use various techniques to obtain your IP address. Two of the most common are social engineering and online stalking. Attackers can use social engineering to deceive you into revealing your IP address. For example, they can find you through Skype or a similar instant messaging and communication application.

Tools that use IP addresses. If you chat with strangers using these apps, it is important to note that they can see your IP address. Some attackers can even use a Skype Resolver Tool, where they can find your IP address from your username.

Other key threats:
  • Online stalking
  • Directly attacking your network
  • Downloading illegal content using your IP address
  • Hacking into your device, and much more…

It’s also worth mentioning that some attackers can also start tracking down your location. And, if by any chance they know your IP address, hackers can use geolocation technology to identify your region, city, and state. They only need to do a little more digging on social media to identify your home and potentially burgle it when they know you are away.

The Significant Role Of An IP Address Plus Best Practices

Actually, you and your computer connect to the Internet indirectly; whereby, you first connect to a network that is: connected to the Internet itself, and it then grants or gives you access to the Internet. That network might be your Internet Service Provider (ISP) at home. Or even a company network at work, the wireless network at a hotel or coffee shop when you’re on the road.

But, with millions of computers on the Internet, how can your single computer jump right in and get you your work or personal emails and more without any problems? In most cases, you’d want to be sure your internet connection is secure and you’re not at risk from hackers — so you can use public WiFi without worries. Thus, you should secure your connection always.

And if necessary, make sure that your browsing data is set to private in most cases. Always remember, that you’d want to keep your data protected so your browsing activity isn’t tracked by advertisers, internet providers, or governments. You should also make sure that you get unrestricted access as far as your personal entertainment space is concerned.

Whereby, in this case, you’d want to be able to stream shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, and other streaming platforms without any worries. The use of IP addresses typically happens behind the scenes.

1. Working From Home And Workplace 

When you’re at home, an IP address is assigned to your computer by your Internet Service Provider. Since they are the ones giving you access to the Internet, it’s their role to assign an IP address to your computer. Your Internet activity goes through them, and they route it back to you, using your IP address. But, don’t tattoo your IP address to your arm.

Obviously, because it’s not really yours. For one thing, even at home, it can change if you do something as simple as turning your modem or router on and off. Or you can contact your Internet service provider and they can change it for you. Remember, your internet activity goes through the ISP, and they route it back to you, using your IP address.

And, since they are giving you access to the internet, it is their role to assign an IP address to your device. Your device indirectly connects to the internet by connecting at first to a network connected to the internet, which then grants your device access to the internet. Chiefly, when you are at home, that network will probably be your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

At work, it will be your company network. Markedly, your IP address can also change suddenly. For example, turning your modem or router on or off can change it. Or, in some cases, that’s if you’ll have contacted your ISP to change it for you.

2. When Using Public Wi-Fi Connection

When using a public Wi-Fi network, even one that is password-protected, a VPN is advisable. If a hacker is on the same Wi-Fi network, it is easy for them to snoop on your data. The basic security that the average public Wi-Fi network employs does not provide robust protection from other users on the same network.

Using a VPN will add an extra layer of security to your data, ensuring you bypass the public Wi-Fi’s ISP and encrypt all your communication. The same case applies when you are working remotely. This is especially relevant in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic world, where many people are working remotely. Often employers require the use of a VPN.

More so, in order to access company services remotely for security reasons. A VPN that connects to your office’s server can give you access to internal company networks and resources when you are not in the office. It can do the same for your home network while you are out and about.

3. When You Are Moving Or Travelling

If you move house, your IP address will be different. This is because you will be using another network (Wi-Fi at a hotel, airport, or coffee shop, etc.) to access the internet and will be using a different (and temporary) IP address, assigned to you by the ISP of the hotel, airport, or coffee shop. However, you may decide to keep your old IP address.

In that case, you should be able to request a static IP address from your ISP. Similarly, if you go on vacation and take along your laptop, your home IP address doesn’t go with you. It can’t, because on vacation you’ll be using another network to connect to the Internet. What if you’re at a coffee shop in another city or state (or just down the road) and you’re on WiFi?

Particularly, in order to receive, read and send your email, you’re using a different (and temporary) IP address. Especially, one assigned to your laptop on the fly by the ISP for that coffee shop’s Internet provider. Eventually, the same thing happens when you travel. As you move from the airport to your hotel to the local coffee house, your IP address will change each time.

But, you don’t have to think about it at all or open the hood of your computer and flip switches. For one thing, it all happens thanks to the intelligent design behind the Internet. In addition to wireless networks and all those PC internet protocols.

4. If You Just Want Some Privacy

Even in the comfort of your own home, using the internet for everyday purposes, using a VPN can be a good idea. Whenever you access a website, the server you connect to logs your IP address and attaches it to all the other data the site can learn about you: your browsing habits, what you click on, and how long you spend looking at a particular page.

They can sell this data to advertising companies who use it to tailor ads straight to you. This is why ads on the internet sometimes feel oddly personal: it’s because they are. Your IP address can also be used to track your location, even when your location services are turned off. Using a VPN prevents you from leaving footprints on the Digital Online Web to be precise.

Equally important, don’t forget your mobile devices, either. They have IP addresses too, and you probably use them in a wider variety of locations than your home computer, including public Wi-Fi hotspots. For such reasons, it is advisable to use a VPN on your mobile when connecting to a network you may not fully trust.

How To Test Your Internet Protocol Address 

To many, knowing their IP Address is as common as the Good Morning Greetings! Well, you can see all this in action all by yourself. Next time you’re using your laptop at a library, work, or the corner store, there’s any easy way out.

Finding your public IP address (the one that is assigned to you by your ISP) is easy because it’s available to anyone on the internet. You can use the free IP lookup tool on this page, or even search for it on Google. However, if you need to look up the private IP address of each home device network, it requires a few more steps which are found here: whatismyipaddress.

Your IP address has to be public information so that other devices can communicate with you. Although this is convenient, it doesn’t give you any online privacy. The quickest way to find out your public IP address is by using the Free IP Lookup Tool just to be safe. You can also jump here to find out the private IP addresses of your devices.

Tips to protect your privacy: 
  • Create unique and strong passwords
  • Use a Proxy to mask your IP Address
  • Stay Anonymous, especially, on the Tor Project and its network
  • Connect to a VPN to Hide your IP Address (and also to Encrypt your traffic)
  • Change privacy settings on instant messaging applications
  • Stay alert to phishing emails and malicious content
  • Connect to your mobile network through a Hotspot
  • Use a good antivirus solution and keep it up to date

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) hides your IP address and redirects your traffic through a separate server, making it much safer for you online. If you want to understand why a particular device is not connecting in the way you would expect or you want to troubleshoot why your network may not be working, it helps understand how IP addresses work.

Takeaway Thoughts:

In nutshell, as per wizcase definition, an Internet Protocol (IP) Address is a unique set of numbers assigned to every device whenever it’s connected to the internet. It works as a way for devices to identify and communicate with each other — just like a home address. If someone wanted to mail you a letter, he’d have to know your address to know where to send it to.

Technically, this is very similar to what happens on the internet. When you enter a website (www.google.com) into your web browser, your device has to look up the corresponding IP address for the website. This is because devices can only understand numbers, not the letters you’ve typed. Once it’s found the site’s IP address then loads on the right screen page.

Other More Resource References: 
  1. Internet Speed Test | Simple Steps To Measure Connection Speeds
  2. Internet Service Providers In Kenya | The #6 Topmost Best Suppliers
  3. Wayback Machine | The No #1 Data Internet Archive For Webpages
  4. Mozilla VPN | The #1 Devices Security, Reliability & Speed Toolkit!
  5. Internet vs Network vs Intranet | What Are Their Main Differences?

That’s it! A full guideline about what an IP Address is all about, how it works, how to test it, plus a few steps to stay safe while surfing the internet. Having said that, we hope that the above-revised guide will be helpful to you or even someone else that you know. However, if you’ll need more help, please feel free to Contact Us and let us know how we can sort you.

Furthermore, our Web Tech Experts Taskforce will be more than glad to see that you get all the attention that you’ll need.  You are also welcome to share your additional thoughts, opinions, suggestions, recommendations, or even contribution questions (for FAQ Answers) in our comments section. Also, don’t forget to donate for support and motivation.

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