Years ago we were told that the Internet was running out of IP addresses. What did that mean exactly? This article will attempt to help you understand what IP addresses are, why they are important and how they are changing.
What is a Private IP address?
An Internet Protocol Address or IP Address is how all information travelling across a network or the Internet knows where to go. Just like the post office knows where to deliver your mail by your home address, the Internet works in a similar way, but more complex.
Your private network will use a private IP range; typically these ranges are as follows…
10.0.0.0 through 10.255.255.255
172.16.0.0 through 172.31.255.255
192.168.0.0 through 192.168.255.255
These IP ranges are for internal use only and do not connect directly to the Internet. You may only have a few computers or devices using your internal private network and there are plenty of addresses available for your network to grow, if needed. These private IP ranges are used by many separate home and business networks, and because they are separate networks with no overlap, the same IP address can be used in different networks. There is no real risk of running out of numbers in a private Local Area Network or LAN.
The same is not true for the Wide Area Network or WAN, such as the Internet. While your private network may only have 10, 100, or even 1000 devices, the Internet has billions of devices needing to surf the Web and that requires a lot of gateway IP addresses.
What is a Public IP address?
Your Internet Service Provider or ISP’s Modem and Your Network Router work together to translate communications between your ISP’s external public IP address and your internal private IP address so that your computer can communicate with other computers around the world, and they have the ability to communicate back to your computer. Even though your computer may be named Pauls-PC, this is only really a label that is translated to an IP address by a Domain Name Service, or DNS. All website names such as www.Google.ca are translated into an IP address and directed to an internal router port that runs certain types of Internet services on them. (FTP, HTTP, SMTP, POP, Etc.) Resulting in whether you reach a Website, a File server, get an email, and so on.
If you were to run a simple command to ping google.ca you would learn that its IP address is 126.96.36.199
This address is the External Public IP address. Run the same ping on any website address and you will get any number of results. It’s these external IP addresses that are becoming less and less available and the only way they become available is if someone stops using them and releases them back to the Internet Service Provider. This is not a problem when IP addresses are dynamically assigned on lease and then renewed and replaced with new addresses every week or so as some Home ISP’s will do, but when it comes to businesses, they need to own static IP addresses that never change. Finding available static IP addresses to purchase is becoming an issue.
What is the difference between IPV4 and IPV6?
These types of IP addresses using the format mentioned previously are called IPV4. This limitation created by the IPV4 format introduced the need for a new IP address format without such limitations, and so IPV6 was invented. IPv6 uses 128 bits instead of 32 bits for its addresses, creating Trillions upon Trillions of possible combinations. IPV6 has nearly an endless amount of available addresses for future device growth. IPV6 addresses look very similar in appearance to the Hardware MAC address associated with every network capable device. The IPV6 has the following format (For example: 21DA:D3:0:2F3B:2AA:FF:FE28:9C5A).
Will this change affect you at all? Not that you would ever notice, as it will likely be invisible to most Internet users, but will certainly impact those who are in charge of your websites and external facing servers in some technical way, but for the rest of us, the Internet will continue to work in the same manner it always has.
Paul Comtois is a Client Support Specialist at Triella, a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Paul can be reached at 647.426.1004. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
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