Friday, April 11, 2008

IP Address

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An IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a unique address that certain electronic devices use in order to identify and communicate with each other on a computer network utilizing the Internet Protocol standard (IP)—in simpler terms, a computer address. Any participating network device—including routers, switches, computers, infrastructure servers (e.g., NTP, DNS, DHCP, SNMP, etc.), printers, Internet fax machines, and some telephones—can have its own address that is unique within the scope of the specific network. Some IP addresses are intended to be unique within the scope of the global Internet, while others need to be unique only within the scope of an enterprise.

The IP address acts as a locator for one IP device to find another and interact with it. It is not intended, however, to act as an identifier that always uniquely identifies a particular device. In current practice, an IP address is not always a unique identifier, due to technologies such as dynamic assignment and network address translation.

IP addresses are managed and created by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IANA generally allocates super-blocks to Regional Internet Registries, who in turn allocate smaller blocks to Internet service providers and enterprises.


Static and dynamic IP addresses

When a computer uses the same IP address every time it connects to the network, it is known as a Static IP address. In contrast, in situations when the computer's IP address changes frequently (such as when a user logs on to a network through dialup or through shared residential cable) it is called a Dynamic IP address.


Uses of dynamic addressing:


Dynamic IP Addresses are most frequently assigned on LANs and broadband networks by Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) servers. They are used because it avoids the administrative burden of assigning specific static addresses to each device on a network. It also allows many devices to share limited address space on a network if only some of them will be online at a particular time. In most current desktop operating systems, dynamic IP configuration is enabled by default so that a user does not need to manually enter any settings to connect to a network with a DHCP server. DHCP is not the only technology used to assigning dynamic IP addresses. Dialup and some broadband networks use dynamic address features of the Point-to-Point Protocol.


Uses of static addressing:


Static addressing is essential in some infrastructure situations, such as finding the Domain Name Service directory host that will translate domain names to numbers (IP addresses). Static addresses are also convenient, but not absolutely necessary, to locate servers inside an enterprise. An address obtained from a DNS server comes with a time to live, or caching time, after which it should be looked up to confirm that it has not changed.


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