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What is an IP?

IP stands for Internet Protocol and refers to the basic rules that allow computers to communicate with each other. Every computer on the planet is assigned a unique IP address which, much like a telephone number, allows specific computers to contact each other and also allows computers to understand their position in relation to another computer.

Once IP addressing is established, the entire computer network can route services, such as email, in the most efficient manner from one computer to another. IP addressing also ensures that your Web browser pulls the intended Web site as it was typed into the address bar.

The most commonly used IP address format is version 4 (IPv4) and is formatted in four sets of 3 digits numbers, with each set separated by a period: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX. Using this format, a typical IPv4 address may be 62.142.52.0. IP addresses must be unique to the network to which the computer is connected. That implies that if your computer is on a network not connected to the Internet, then it can be assigned any IP address, even though that number may be duplicated somewhere else on the Internet. The number only has to be unique in the local network of connected computers.

However, as soon as that computer connects to the Internet, a registered IP address must be allotted that is unique to any other computer that is also connected.

Typically, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), issue what are called dynamic IP addresses for customers that connect to the Internet through the ISP’s network. Dynamic means the IP address is not assigned permanently; in fact, each time the computer connects it may have a different IP address.

It is this nature of dynamic IP addresses to change that makes it nearly impossible to host a Web site. After all, other computers must know how to connect to a Web site using a specific IP address - if that number is constantly changing then this becomes impossible.

To host a Web page, that is, maintain a Web site on a computer that is located within your home or business, it is necessary to have a static IP address. Static means the IP address will remain the same every time the computer accesses the Internet; the number is permanently attached to the computer and no other computer connecting to the Web will have that number. That is, of course, assuming you keep up the service contract with your ISP. Typically, static IP accounts are for business customers who have the need to host Web sites.