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Static IP vs dynamic IP: What’s the difference?

Both are gateways to the internet, but is one better than the other?

IP addresses on a screen with an ethernet cable in front

In 2016, 17.1 billion IoT devices were installed worldwide, and by 2027 this number is predicted to rise to 41 billion.

From wearables to smart home appliances, and maybe even your coffee machine, the world of IoT extends way further than the conventional. By 2023, it’s also predicted that 70% of automobiles will connect to the internet.

You may have wondered how devices “talk” to each other, especially with so many of them creating a massive web of connections through the internet. Essentially, how do devices communicate with the internet?

IP address: The language of the internet

Similar to how a Social Security number in the US is used to distinguish citizens, an internet protocol (IP) address differentiates machines from each other across the internet. To send or receive data via the network, every single device on a transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) network needs an IP address.

For exchanging messages over the internet, TCP/IP is a widely adopted networking standard.

Take it as a general rule that IP addresses are usually displayed and written as a combination of periods and numbers. An IP address corresponding to internet protocol version 4 (IPv4), for example, would be 180.151.119.202.

Since it can be hard for humans to remember data in this form, a human-friendly representation of an IP address is called a domain name. They are unique to each website and easier to remember too. The domain name given to Amazon, for example, is “amazon.com.”

Assigning IP addresses to network devices is the job of a network administrator. They can assign a dynamic or static IP address, depending on the network’s requirements.

What is a static IP address?

True to its name, a static IP address doesn’t change. It can remain the same for weeks, months, and even years.

Due to their unchanging nature, businesses offering dedicated internet services, such as web hosting, prefer static IPs. Internet service providers (ISP) assign them manually.

Pros

  • Ideal for hosting computer servers
  • Facilitates faster data exchange 
  • Supports remote desktop access

Cons

  • Difficult to set up and manage 
  • More prone to hacking 
  • Comes with an additional fee

What is a dynamic IP address?

A dynamic IP address is temporary and may change when you reboot your system or the router. ISPs assign dynamic IP addresses as needed via a dynamic host configuration protocol server (DHCP server).

Most machines have dynamic addresses, as they’re economical and secure. When a dynamic address is not in use, an ISP assigns it to a different device.

Pros

  • Automatically configured; requires no additional setup
  • Less prone to hacking
  • Cost-effective

Cons

  • Makes it nearly impossible to set up remote access 
  • Can cause downtime when disconnected
  • Affects performance of geolocation services

Static IP vs Dynamic IP: Which is better?

Static IP addresses can do wonders for businesses that require unwavering uptime. They’re particularly beneficial for organizations hosting websites and servers. Static IPs’ other hard-to-overlook capabilities include reliable internet connection, faster data exchange, and convenient remote access.

Be that as it may, static IP addresses still present challenges that can quickly become security bottlenecks. For example, it is easier to track devices with static IP addresses, making them a prime hacking target.

A virtual private network (VPN) can alleviate static IPs’ safety concerns. Besides hiding your IP address, a VPN encrypts online traffic and communication, ensuring your digital footprints are untraceable.

Dynamic addresses change periodically, making them naturally harder to trace. However, keep in mind that the DHCR server failure can cause networkwide downtime. By and far, dynamic IPs are best suited for local networks and home users, as they feature much-needed security at an affordable price.

In short, static IP addresses are more reliable than dynamic IP addresses but sacrifice affordability and security. Unless you’re dealing with large volumes of data or work remotely, a dynamic IP address is the way to go.

How to check if you have a static or dynamic IP

Whether you are using Windows or Mac, it only takes a few clicks to determine your IP address.

Following these instructions to trace your IP address on Windows 10: 

  1. Right-click on the “Start” button
  2. Type “Command Prompt” in the search bar and press enter
  3. Click “Command Prompt”
  4. Type “ipconfig/all” in the Command Prompt window and press “Enter”
  5. In the list of network information displayed, look for “DHCP Enabled”

If it says “Yes” next to “DHCP Enabled”, your system has a dynamic IP address. If it says “No”, your device has a static IP address.

To verify your IP address on macOS:

  1. Click the “System Preferences” icon in the Dock or choose Apple menu > System Preferences
  2. Select the “Network” option
  3. Go to Advanced > TCP/IP

If you see “Using DHCP” next to “Configure IPv4”, then your system uses a dynamic IP address. If the section says “Manually”, you have a static IP.

Alternatively, you can always contact your ISP to learn more about your network type and IP address.

Protect your IP from identity thefts, hackers, and prying eyes

IP addresses are akin to the return addresses on traditional mail. Bad actors can use your IP address to trace your location with surprising accuracy, gain access to your browsing history, passwords, and more.

To steer clear from cyber attacks, keep your antivirus software up to date and change the router’s default password. The default router password the ISP or manufacturer set is the same for all users with the same router, and hackers can easily search them online. Additionally, use a firewall to restrict unauthorized access.

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