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What is a static IP address and how can you get one?

By Hannah Ricci
Wednesday, October 22nd 2014

You might have heard the term ‘static IP address’ and wondered what it means and whether it makes any difference to your time online. Well, it all depends on what kind of internet user you are and whether you require the features a static IP address offers.

Here’s a breakdown of what those features are, as well as everything else you need to know about a static IP address and how to get one if you think you might need one.

Purpose of a static IP address

Think of an IP address like your computer’s home address and postcode. It is a numerical code that allows you to get online and enable other devices to find and communicate with your computer. The vast majority of home internet users will find that a standard dynamic IP address is adequate. However, business owners and gamers will benefit from a static IP address – for running servers and enabling remote access.

A static versus a dynamic IP

Most broadband services are provided with a dynamic IP address as standard, which is automatically picked from a pool of numbers and then changes each time you are offline. This is not a problem for most home users as it simply switches quietly in the background with little interruption to your day-to-day business.

A static IP address, on the other hand, is fixed and unique to you. It means you have the same address each time you go online, which can bring a number of benefits for certain types of internet users. Some broadband services include a static IP address, some don’t, and others allow you to pay extra to get one.

Which providers offer a static IP address?

All of the major broadband providers offer static IP addresses, but the details vary. Generally, business broadband packages come with at least one free static IP address, although sometimes you need to request it. Enter your postcode into the availability checker at the bottom of the page to see who offers broadband in your area.

Benefits of a static IP address

Static IP addresses offer a number of advantages over dynamic IP addresses, particularly for business users and gamers.

Gain remote access to your computer

Ever needed to access your home or office computer from another location, even from overseas? A static IP address will easily allow you to do this (in conjunction with separate software), as well as operate other services that require external access, such as a CCTV system.

Run servers allowing for data storage and transfer

If you need to share data between several devices, setting up a server or Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a good idea and a static IP address will enable you to do so. It will enable File Transfer Protocol (FTP), which is a reliable method to quickly transfer data from one device to another, particularly large files that might be difficult to include as email attachments.

Similarly, serious multiplayer gamers can utilise the personal server option that some games offer, allowing you to set your own rules and invite friends to your own game.

Host your own website

If you want to host your own website that responds to queries for your domain name, it has to be associated with a static IP address. A static IP also allows you to do away with external email providers and set up your own email web server.

Risks of a static IP address

Static IPs can very useful but they don’t come without risk and it’s important to understand the potential pitfalls before you switch. First, a fixed IP address is less secure than one that constantly changes because if a hacker happens to track down your IP, they can continue to attack until you actively change it.

Running a managed firewall can help to combat this. If you use a desktop computer as a server to run a website, as a gaming server, or for FTP services, you’ll also need to ensure that it is online at all times to avoid loss of access to other connected sites and devices.

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