IP address: what is it and what for?

IP 101: basic of IP addresses

The “IP” part of IP addresses means “Internet Protocol”. The “address” part is a single number that gets linked to a unique number that gets linked to all the online activity that you do.. something similar to the returning of a letter that you have already sent (in milliseconds). That is the end of today´s lesson. At least that is how it should be.

Because from this point on, it gets complicated quickly. And confusing. IT (Information Technology) is a crazy thing and it is better to leave it for those who have to deal with computers and networks.

Still, nowadays we all are on the internet and it seems that we are always connected through our computers or mobiles. And every time that you go to internet, an IP address is working for you.

And with so much obscure information (and misinformation) out there about the IP address, getting to know the basics is very helpful.

You have connections

Your computer is linked to the internet, one way or another. When you access online to write an email, to shop or to chat, your request must be sent to the right destination and the answers and information that you want have to come back to you straightaway. An IP address plays an important role in this.

In fact, you and your computer connect to the internet indirectly: first, you connect to a network that is connected to the internet and that provides you with internet access.

That network might be your Internet Service Provider (ISP) at home, or a net work company at work or a network with no cable in a hotel or a cafe when you are on the road. But with millions of computers on the Internet, how can a computer go to the right place and get personal e-mails and so on with no problems?

Protocols are Protocols

To make sure that you can do what you have to do on the Internet, the net software of your pc is pre-programmed to follow a rules list and network standards (yes, protocols) to connect to  the internet and to exchange information and data.

One of those network protocols in your pc, the Internet protocol, is responsible for addressing, sharing and routing your online requests in a precise way. It has to attach an “electronic return address” to all your online petitions and activity. The address that it uses is the IP address for your connection.

So long, IP address, it has been nice knowing you

When you are at home, an IP address is assigned to your computer by your Internet services provider. Since the latter it is the one that provides you with internet access, it is the one that assigns an IP address to your computer. Your iternet activity goes through the provider, which gives it back to you using your IP address.

But don´t get attached to it, don´t tatoo your IP address on your arm, because, actually, it is not yours. Even when you are at home it can change if you do something as simple as turning on and off your router. Or you can contact your Internet services provider and they can change it for you.

You can´t take it with you

Besides this, if you go on holidays and take your laptop with you, your IP at home does not go with you. It can´t, because on holidays you will be using another network to connect to internet.

In this way, when you are in a coffee shop in another city (or simply on the road) and you are using its WiFi to access your email, you are using a different  (and temporary) IP address, the one assigned to your laptop on the way by the ISP Internet provider of the coffee shop.

It is the same when you travel. While you move from the airport up to your hotel and afterwards to the local coffee house, your IP address will change each time.

But you don´t have to think about it at all, all of it happens thanks to the intelligent design of the internet, wireless networks and all those internet protocols used by your computer.

You can check out all this out yourself. From Clouding.io, we recommend that the next time you use a laptop in a library, at work, or the shop round the corner, click on  whatismyipaddress.com and check the IP address that you are using at that very moment.


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