Every server on the internet is assigned a unique number – an IP (Internet Protocol) address. Think of the number as a telephone number which allows other computers to find and gain access to files no matter where they are. An IP address is 4 bytes, and each byte is an octet which can have a value between 0 and 255. There are billions of possible addresses.
There are plans to expand the number of IP addresses with the introduction of version 6 of the Internet Protocol. IPv6 has IP addresses which are 128 bits wide. This provides the potential for an unlimited number of unique addresses. It will, however, take several years to implement because of the heavy cost of upgrading the i infrastructure.
In the web hosting industry there are two types of IP address:
- Dedicated IP address (also called static IP) means that a website has its own IP address
- Shared IP address means that multiple websites share the same address
Due to the rapid increase of the number of registered domain names and the finite number of IP addresses, web hosting providers are forced to use shared addresses where it is possible. In fact, hundreds of websites quite often share the same address. Static IP website hosting is no longer the norm and usually is less cost effective in this age of increasing users.