Dynamic IP Address

Definition of a dynamic IP address

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What is a Dynamic IP Address?

A dynamic IP address is an IP address that's automatically assigned to each connection, or node, of a network, like your smartphone, desktop PC, wireless tablet... whatever.

This automatic assignment of IP addresses is done by what's called a DHCP server.

A DHCP server assigned IP address is called dynamic because it will often be different on future connections to the network.

The "opposite" of a dynamic IP address is called a static IP address (one that was configured manually).

Where Are Dynamic IP Addresses Used?

The public IP address that gets assigned to the router of most home and business users by their ISPs is a dynamic IP address. Larger companies usually do not connect to the Internet via dynamic IP addresses and instead have static IP addresses assigned to them, and only them.

In a local network like in your home or place of business, where you use a private IP address, most devices are probably configured for DHCP, meaning that they're using dynamic IP addresses. If DHCP is not enabled, each device in you home network would need to have network information manually setup, so you'd probably already be well aware of this.

Note: Some Internet Service Providers assign "sticky" dynamic IP addressees that do change, just less frequently than a typical dynamic IP address.

What are the Advantages of Dynamic IP Addresses?

Frankly, the main advantage of assigning IP addresses dynamically is that it's more flexible, and easier to setup and administer, than static IP address assignments.

For example, one laptop that connects to the network can be assigned a particular IP address, and when it disconnects, that address is now free to be used by another device that connects later on, even if it's not that same laptop.

With this type of IP address assignment, there's little limit to the number of devices that can connect to a network since ones that don't need to be connected can disconnect and free up the pool of available of addresses for another device.

The alternative would be for the DHCP server to set aside a particular IP address for each device, just in case it wanted to connect to the network. In this scenario, a few hundred devices, no matter if they were being utilized or not, would each have their own IP address which could limit access for new devices.

As I mentioned above, another advantage of using dynamic IP addresses is that it's easier to implement than static IP addresses. Nothing needs to be setup manually for new devices that connect to the network... all you have to do is make sure DHCP is enabled on the router.

Since almost every network device is configured by default to to grab an IP address from the available pool of addresses, everything is automatic.

What are the Disadvantages of Dynamic IP Addresses?

While it's extremely common, and technically acceptable, for a home network to use a dynamically assigned IP address for its router, a problem arises if you're trying to access that network from an outside network.

Let's say your home network is assigned a dynamic IP address by your Internet Service Provider but you need to remotely access your home computer from your work computer.

Since most remote access/desktop programs require that you know the IP address of your router to get to the computer inside that network, but the IP address of your router changes periodically because it's dynamic, you could run in to trouble.