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What is a static IP address?

By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Monday, October 5th 2020

A static IP address isn't something you'll see offered with consumer broadband deals very often. More likely you'll see it included as part of a business broadband package, but what exactly is a static IP address and why would you want one?

Read on and we'll explain what a static IP address is and, importantly, how it differs from what you're more likely to have at home – a dynamic IP address. Most people will only need a static IP address for one of a limited number of use cases, so by the end of this guide you should be pretty clear on whether you need one or not.

What is a static IP address?

An IP address, or Internet Protocol address to give it its full name, is a number assigned to your device by your broadband provider. Usually this number is dynamic – it changes every time you connect to the internet. The difference with a static IP address is that, as the name suggests, the number doesn't change. This is important for a number of reasons, which we'll get into soon.

IP addresses are important because they are the number that devices connected to a network use to communicate with each other. In the same way we use street addresses to know where letters and parcels should be delivered, IP addresses are used by network devices to determine where data should be sent. Static IP addresses are useful when external devices or websites need to remember your IP address and use it again in future.

To be clear, the IP addresses we're talking about here are public IP addresses – this is the one your broadband provider and others to communicate with you. This is different to your private IP address, which is the number assigned to your router and the other devices connected to your LAN (local area network). If any of these terms need further clarification, check out our helpful jargon-busting guide.

What are the advantages of a static IP address?

We've said it before but it's worth saying again – most people will not need a static IP address. That said, there are some specific use cases in which it's either necessary or simply helpful to have a static rather than dynamic IP. Let's get into them now.

  • Better DNS support – DNS (Domain Name Servers) translate domain names (what you type into a URL bar) to the numeric IP addresses needed to access websites. If you want to set up or manage a DNS server, a static IP will make it possible
  • Server hosting – If you are hosting a server, a static IP makes it easier for other people's devices to find it via DNS. You don't have to have a static IP to run a server, but it helps
  • Hosting an email server – A static IP lets you set up your own email server, which gives you more control over your emails
  • Remote access – Having a static IP address allows you to access your computer from anywhere including accessing files, programmes and settings
  • Better geo-location services – A static IP makes it easier for websites to pinpoint the exact location of a device or server. Perfect for running a VPN server, for example, or getting super-accurate weather forecasts
  • Better VoIP calls – VoIP or Voice over IP calls are phone calls made over an internet connection. These can be more stable when the device has a static IP address
  • Running a CCTV system – Some CCTV systems require you to have a static IP address

What are the disadvantages of a static IP address?

There are a few disadvantages to using a static IP address, although for most us the reason not to bother is simply that we won't see any benefit.

  • More hackable – If a static IP makes it easier for websites and other devices to see exactly where you are on the internet, it's going to make it easier for hackers, too
  • Real-word security concerns – The same goes for geo-location services. If websites can pinpoint your location accurately, it follows that those with nefarious intent may be able to do the same. Using a VPN could help you get around this problem
  • Higher cost – Broadband providers will generally charge you a bit more for a static IP if you're on a consumer broadband package. Although, as you'll see below, often it isn't actually very much.

How to get a static IP address

Getting hold of a static IP address will usually go hand in hand with signing up to business broadband. The UK's big four broadband providers – BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk – do not offer static IP addresses to residential customers. All suggest getting in touch with their business broadband teams if this is something you'd like to pursue.

EE and Now Broadband don't offer any way of getting a static IP address, as you might expect for providers more focussed on mobile and TV respectively.

Hyperoptic, which specialises in fibre broadband, doesn't offer static IP addresses as standard but says you can buy one for £5 a month if you so wish. Plusnet also lets you switch between dynamic and static IP addresses for a £5 set-up fee if you're on its home broadband package. If you're on a legacy Plusnet deal, you'll need to check with the provider as some older packages don't support static IP. Shell Energy Broadband offers a static IP address for a one-off fee of £15, so get in touch with its customer service team if you want to take advantage.

Gigaclear, which provides ultrafast broadband to rural communities, offers static or fixed IP addresses on certain packages for an additional £2 a month. You do this by contacting customer services.

It's simple to get a static IP address if you're a John Lewis Broadband customer. Log into My Account, go to the internet section and you can activate a static IP for a £5 set-up fee. You'll then need to reboot your router for this to take effect. John Lewis Broadband says if you remove a static IP from your account, you're unlikely to get the same one again in the future.

It's not clear whether a static IP address is available with Vodafone's home broadband packages. You can get up to eight static IPs with Voda's business broadband but when we asked whether you can get even one on a residential connection, Vodafone sent us round in circles. If you're a Voda customer, we suggest giving customer services a ring to find out.

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Frequently asked questions

What is IPv6?

IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol (IP). IP version 4, which you're likely to have at the moment, is made up of four hexadecimal numbers separated by dots and looks like 172.16.254.1. There are about 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses and we've almost used them up.

IPv6 addresses look more like 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334 and there are absolutely loads of them, so we're unlikely to ever run out.

What type of IP address do I have?

If you're on a residential (consumer) broadband package and haven't specifically requested a static IP address, you'll have a dynamic IP address. If you're unsure, ask your broadband provider.

Can I change my IP address?

If you're talking about your public IP address, the one that others see when making a connection with your device, then this changes all the time if it's a dynamic IP address. If it's a static one, you may need to ask your broadband provider whether it can be changed. If you're talking about the private IP address that is assigned to your router and private network, changing it is as easy as going into your router settings.

Do I need a static IP address to run a website?

If you're looking to host the website yourself then a static IP address may be helpful. If you're going to run a website hosted on a remote server, such as a Wordpress site, then no you probably have no need for a static IP.

Does a VPN require a static IP address?

You don't need a static IP address in order to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) but if you want to build your own VPN, then you may do.

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