IP Address | What is It & How does It Work?

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 the uses. But, don’t worry!

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.

IP Address

Surprisingly, your computer is hooked up to the Internet, one way or the other. When you go online for email, to shop or chat, your request has to be sent out to the right destination. And also, the responses and information you want need to come back directly to you.

An IP address plays a significant role in that.

What is an IP Address?

The “IP” part of the IP Address stands for “Internet Protocol.” The “Address” part refers to a “Unique Number” that gets linked to all online activity you do. Somewhat like a return address on a letter you’d send out. Bearing in mind, all this happens in milliseconds.

Important to realize, 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.

Most networks today, including all computers on the Internet, use the TCP/IP protocol as the standard for how to communicate 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.

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 network.

The functions of the two main protocols;

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.

Lastly, a subnet mask is what tells a computer, or other network devices, what portion of the IP address is used.

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.

Common types of TCP/IP include the following:

  • 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.

How do I Note an IP Address?

An IP address is coined by the network and host address components. A subnet mask 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 additional subnetwork is needed. Use the Subnet Calculator to retrieve subnetwork information from IP address and Subnet Mask.

IP Address

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 a network address and “255” is assigned to a broadcast address, and they cannot be assigned to hosts.

Examples of commonly used netmasks for classed networks are 8-bits (Class A), 16-bits (Class B) and 24-bits (Class C), and classless networks.

IPv4 Addressing

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 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

Due to the enormous growth of internet-connected devices, there simply aren’t enough IPv4 addresses to go around anymore. 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

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.

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 a 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.

What’s More!

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 a method called Network Address Translation (NAT) to help public and private addresses work in tandem. Essentially, the router interprets incoming requests and sends them onto 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 using private addresses.

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

Example
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.

What is the Significant Role of an IP Address?

Actually, you and your computer connect to the Internet indirectly; whereby, you first connect to a network that is:

  1. connected to the Internet itself, and
  2. 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?

Serving Internet At Home

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, because it’s not really yours. For one thing, even at home, it can change if you do something as simple as turn your modem or router on and off. Or you can contact your Internet service provider and they can change it for you.

What If You Are Moving?

Plus, 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.

So, when you’re at a coffee shop in another city or state (or just down the road) and you’re using their WiFi to get 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.

And 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 and every time.

But, you don’t have to think about it at all or open the hood of your computer and flip switches. It all happens thanks to the intelligent design behind the Internet. In addition to wireless networks and all those Internet Protocols your computer uses.

What Is My IP Address?

To many, this is as common as the Good Morning Greetings! Well, you can see all this for yourself.

Next time you’re using your laptop at a library, work or the corner store, just click on whatismyipaddress.com and check out the IP address you’re using.

Finally, I hope the above-revised guide was helpful. However, if you’ll have more questions or even contributions, please Contact Us.

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