Dynamic IP Address vs. Static IP Address: Which one should you use?

Feb 1, 2022

At the risk of getting too technical, let’s dive into the difference between dynamic and static IP addresses. First, let’s define exactly what each one means and then figure out how they apply to your internet needs.

What’s an IP address?

Every computer or other device connected to the internet has an Internet Protocol (IP) address, a unique string of characters that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network to other devices sending or receiving data via the internet. Think of it as a behind-the-scenes identification number for your device. You don’t need to know it, but your device does to talk to other devices. Each time a device sends data to your device, it finds the IP address to ensure it’s sending to the right place.

IP Address

Dynamic IP addresses

There are two main types of IP addresses: static and dynamic. As the term “static” implies, these IP addresses never change. See the section below for more information on the unique uses for a static IP address.

Dynamic IP addresses periodically change automatically. While it may seem odd that a unique identifier changes, it’s mostly for security purposes. An IP address can be tied to a physical location, much like a mailing address. This can lead to security issues with potential hackers and other nefarious players. These rotating IP addresses are randomly assigned by the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol or DHCP that automatically adjusts IP addresses periodically. In most home environments, the router serves as the DHCP.

Static vs dynamic ip address

Why is this a good thing? In most dynamic IP networks, the odds of two devices having the same IP address are slim, ensuring better communication and less potential of the wrong device getting the wrong data.

If you have a home wi-fi that uses extenders rather than a mesh network, your device will change networks as it moves around your home. Dynamic IP addresses allow your device to move seamlessly from one network to another.

Static IP addresses

Unlike dynamic IP addresses, static IP addresses never change. They are manually assigned and remain unchanged until a new address is manually assigned to replace the first one. Static IP addresses work best on devices that either do not need to change or would confuse network devices if the address changed.

For example, a network printer can use a static IP address because it never moves and needs to be accessible to any device attached to the network. Likewise, file server IP addresses should be static to improve security and reduce the likelihood of files not being saved properly.

IP Input Screen

The biggest drawback to a static IP address is its inflexibility. If the address needs to change, the network administrator must update it manually and notify all users of the new address to update their device settings. Failure to notify everyone can result in connectivity issues and potential loss of files users thought they had saved on the server.

What about VPNs?

How does using a Virtual Private Network or VPN affect IP addresses? A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your internet records and activities, including cookies and crawlers, reducing the odds of a hacker getting into your data or learning your surfing habits. It also hides your geographic location, something your IP address normally reveals. For example, a VPN can make you appear to be halfway around the world, depending on how your traffic is routed through servers.

VPN

Wrap Up

For most applications, a dynamic IP is the way to go. It’s easy to use and makes connectivity a breeze for home and most business networks. Static IP addresses fill an important niche for certain business applications but can be difficult to manage and update.


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