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The difference between static and dynamic IP addresses

Updated on March 28, 2013

Introduction

In a previous Hub I explained what a LAN is and what a WAN is. I also explained that there are two different IP versions (IPv4 and IPv6). This Hub will explain the difference between static and dynamic IP addresses. First off I'll start by giving a quick overview of each.

Static IP addresses are set in your computer or other network device manually. It won't change unless you change it manually.

Dynamic IP addresses are the exact opposite. They are assigned automatically by what is called a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server.

Static IP addresses

Static IP addresses are very useful in small networks for several reasons:

  1. Setup is simple
  2. It's very easy to keep track of which device has what IP address
  3. You can plan the structure of your network
  4. Easy to organize devices into certain IP address ranges

To explain the last point here is an example:

The router has an IP address of 192.168.1.1, the server has the IP address of 192.168.1.2, workstations will be in the range of 192.168.1.10-20, network printers and other devices will be in the range 192.168.1.40-50.

The use of static IP addresses becomes more and more difficult as you add devices and grow your network.

Dynamic IP addresses

Dynamic IP addresses are the most widely-used configuration, especially in personal networks. The device will connect to the network and make contact with a DHCP server which will then grant the device an IP address to be used while connected to the network. They are preferred for several reasons:

  1. No configuration necessary (The majority of devices default to this setup)
  2. Works just as well as static IP address setup for most networks
  3. Makes wireless networking much easier because it is handled automatically
  4. Allows devices to join a network seamlessly

Although this setup is preferable for most situations, there are a few drawbacks:

  1. As mentioned above a DHCP server is required to distribute IP addresses
  2. Extra work is required when attempting to connect to devices on the network (The IP of that device will need to be known in order to communicate with it)

As I said above, most networks are dynamic due to ease of use.

Final thoughts

I myself prefer dynamic IP addressing over static. It makes moving between different networks a breeze (which is a must for today's portable devices). The lack of initial configuration is also a big selling feature.

In some newer routers there is a feature called DHCP reservation (which I will cover in a future Hub) that is sort of a happy medium between static and dynamic IP addressing.

I will also cover setting a static IP address on your computer in a future Hub.

Until then, stay excellent!

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