What is an IP Address

IP (Internet Protocol) is the protocol for the way data is routed on the internet. An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique number given to each device on the internet. It is important for every computer, laptop, xBox, PlayStation, smartphone, IPod, or other device to have its own number so that information can be delivered to the correct location. Packets of data are passed around and routed to the correct IP address, similar to the way mail is processed by the postal service and delivered to your street address.

Below is an example of typing an IP address in to a web browser address bar.

Most devices on the internet use TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) to make sure your packets of data get to the correct location. Another type of protocol used on the internet is UDP (User Datagram Protocol) which is a faster way to transfer data, but packets may get lost on the way. UDP is used for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and streaming, like watching movies on Netflix, where occasional packet drop is not a big deal.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is the protocol that your router uses to assign IP addresses to devices on your office or home network (LAN or Local Area Network). This protocol assigns a unique address to each device so that no two devices share the same IP address.

What is my IP address?

An external IP address is the public address used by others on the internet to identify you. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) allocates this number to your computer or network. If you are hosting a minecraft server that you want to point people to, they will need to know your external IP address to connect to you.

An internal IP address is a number that your router assigns to a specific device within your private network (LAN). Internal IP addresses are only used by your router and they have no meaning or utility outside of your router. Internal IP addresses that are assigned to devices on your network look like one of the following examples:

You can access devices on your home or office network by typing the internal IP address of the specific device into your browser. For example, you can access your router from your computer by typing your router's internal IP address into your browser. From there you can login to your router with your username and password.

Your external IP address is: 54.198.1.167

To determine your internal IP address follow our What is My IP Address guide.

How do we know this? All webservers know your external IP address; it's how they send pages to you when you browse the web. They learn your external IP address when you ask for a page. All we are doing above is sending that number back to you so that you can see it.

Static vs. Dynamic IP Address

Most internal IP addresses are set to a value in a particular range known as a dynamic IP address. These addresses are assigned by the router and can change from time to time which is why they are called dynamic. For example, a laptop using a dynamic IP address may have a different IP address after power is cycled to the laptop.

Some internal IP addresses are permenantly assigned, known as a static IP addresses. The internal IP address of your router is static. Some devices work better with a static IP address. For example, if you want to host an Xbox or PlayStation game online, you will need to assign a static internal IP address to your gaming console.

Xbox Live and PlayStation Network take care of external IP addresses for game hosting. It is up to you to forward a port on your router to point all traffic coming in on a certain port to the internal IP address of your gaming console. When you forward a port to a device on your internal network you should make that device's IP static, otherwise when you reboot the device you may get a different IP address.

To determine if an IP address is static or dynamic and to find out how to set up a static IP address you can use our free software.

To find out how to forward a port on your router, use our router guides.

What is Dynamic DNS?

Dynamic DNS (Domain Name System) is a service that you pay for that binds a domain name to a changing external IP address. For those of you that operate a minecraft server, you will want to use a Dynamic DNS service to bind the external IP address of your server to a domain name. That way your buddies can connect to you by typing in your easy to remember domain name instead of needing to know your current external IP address every time they want to connect. Visit our guide on Dynamic DNS for more help with that.

More Information

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Rachel Bauer

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Rachel Bauer is an owner and primary author for SetupRouter.com. She is available on Google+ and you can find more of her articles in the Networking section of our site.