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How An IP Network Can Help You Communicate More Efficiently

Most people have heard of and used the term “IP address.” However, few can offer more than a cursory explanation of what an IP address is, what it is used for, how an understanding of the power of IP can help save you time and money, and how it can help you to communicate more effectively. Have you ever wondered what that group of numbers actually means? Following is a guide to how an IP network operates and why it is important:

Defining IP

Specifically, Internet Protocol (IP) terminology refers to the network that includes home and business networks, as well the Internet. Internet Protocol is often paired with Transport Control Protocol (TCP) and is written as TCP/IP. IP is used to describe the transfer of packets between computers.

How an IP works

When computers are connected to either a network or the Internet, they share information with the other computers on the network. Information is bundled into “packets” and sent back and forth as long as there is a connection. Similar to a postal service, the IP takes packets from one computer and then delivers them to the intended recipient, based on the IP address of the receiving computer. The protocol establishes a connection, allowing the packet sending to occur over the duration of the connection.
network serverAn IP address is important because it identifies the computer to any network that it is attached to, so it must be unique to the computer. IP addresses can be either static or dynamic based on the needs of the user. Static IP addresses will never change, while a dynamic address changes every time the computer logs onto the Internet or IP network.
When IP addresses were first developed in the early 1970s, there were 4 billion potential IP addresses. The number seemed insurmountable until recent years. With over 6 billion people on the planet, the number of available IP addresses is quickly dwindling. To prevent the depletion of available addresses, IP coders have developed ways to work around the problem. Dynamic IP addresses are one solution to the limited number of addresses available. As computers come online, they are assigned an IP address to use. The number can be reassigned to another user when the original computer has disconnected from the network, a form of “recycling” that reuses IP addresses as needed.
Another method of dealing with the limited number of IPs is through the use of subnets. Subnets are networks created within networks. For example, suppose a household has five computers. The provider network would assign one IP address to the house, while each computer would have its own internal IP address. The network would only be using one IP address, however, so the impact on the limited number of IP’s would be minimal.
Unfortunately, despite these efforts, there are still more Internet capable devices than there are IP addresses for them to use. In order to solve this problem, computer programmers recently developed a new system of assigning IP addresses. Historically, IP addresses used a binary system comprised of 1’s and 0’s. Under the new IP address system, IP addresses are assigned using hexadecimal numbers, offering the potential for approximately 340 undecillion more IP addresses.

Decoding IP addresses

IP addresses are made up of 32-bit numeric codes that are divided into four segments and separated by decimals. Formatted to provide information about the particular network and host of the device, the IP address identifies the specific regional registry to which the computer belongs. The first two segments identify the network, which tells the routers which group of devices to whom the packets should be sent. The last two segments identify the host, or the specific computer within the network to send the packet.

Communicating via IP

tech agent voipMany consumers may not be aware that their IP address can provide a method of communication that is not only convenient, but in many cases may be free to anyone who uses it. VoIP technology tackles the issue of telephone usage by compressing digital recordings of phone calls and then delivering them via the broadband network. IP addresses are essential to the use of this technology, as they notify the VoIP process as to where the message must be delivered. Due to the increasing dependence on broadband technology, one can assume that it will not be long before VoIP becomes the standard means of communication.
Ultimately, it is not necessary to understand IP technology in order to appreciate how it works. However, when troubleshooting connection problems at home or work, it can be helpful to have a basic understanding of how IP addresses are used and why they are important.