What is .......... IP Addressing?

What is it?

It stands for Internet Protocol address. It is a unique address that identifies a computer on a network such as the Internet.

Why was it developed?

If two machines are networked together, then it is pretty obvious that when you send data from one machine it can only go to the other machine. So no need for complicated addressing. But as soon as more and more machines were added to networks, they needed to be identified by a unique address.

So IP addressing was invented. And it looks something like this

There are four sets of numbers because it is a 4 byte scheme - 32 bits. The first three numbers tend to be used to identify the network while the last number tends to pinpoint a particular computer on that network.

Is that all there is to it?

Things do get a bit more complicated than that though because many companies have thousands of machines connected to their own private network. The network admin will have given these machines their own internal IP address.

But to connect to the internet they have to go through a gateway or firewall. That gateway will 'translate' the private IP addresses into a public address.

So its a bit like a funnel controlling the flow in and out of the company network. This is called NAT or Network Address Translation.

How do IP addresses link with domain names?

As people, we don't use IP addresses on the Internet, they are great for computers but too hard for us to remember or figure out.

So another scheme was developed which allows us to type in a much friendlier address such as www.teach-ict.com (a domain name). When you type in www.teach-ict.com it gets sent to one of a number of computers on the Internet called the 'Domain Name Servers' or DNS for short.

The DNS server then finds the correct IP address to allow you to automatically connect to the teach-ict.com site.

What about the future?

Well, there is a basic problem - we are running out of IP addresses - 32 bits is not enough. Who would have thought that 4 thousand million unique addresses would not be enough!

But now, not only computers are connecting to the internet but fax machines, printers, mobile phones and even fridges.

So a new scheme has been developed that use 128 bits instead of 32 bits. This will be enough to give every grain of sand on earth a unique address. So it should be big enough for the time being!

The new scheme is called IPv6.



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