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DHCP vs Static IP

Difference Between DHCP and Static IP's

When it comes to managing a network, one of the pivotal aspects is controlling IP addresses. Every device on a network needs an IP address, so how do you assign them?

For the most part, you can choose between DHCP and static IP. Which is right for your network? Keep reading to learn more about the differences and learn for yourself.

What Is DHCP?

DHCP stands for “Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.” As the name, dynamic, implies, this is a setup where the IP address changes, and it changes a lot.

In order to manage a dynamic IP address, your network has to connect to a DHCP server. The server assigns IP addresses to every device on the network, and it manages how those addresses change and when. It’s all according to the DHCP protocol, and it requires no oversight from a network administrator.

As you might imagine, this automation makes network management considerably easier. Additionally, the dynamic nature of the IP addresses makes it difficult for outsiders to directly access any device on the network.

What is DHCP Used For?

DHCP is the most common IP protocol for common networks. It’s the standard for home and business networking, and it’s ideal in most cases.

The only use case where DHCP isn’t appropriate is for a device that needs to be regularly accessed by other devices outside of your network. As an example, a cloud server would not want to be on a dynamic IP address because it would make it difficult for users to directly connect.

DHCP is also best for networks that frequently add or remove devices, like a coffee shop Wi-Fi network.

What Is a Static IP?

A static IP is the opposite of a dynamic IP. Instead of regularly changing, static IPs remain the same, even when the device is restarted. In order to obtain a static IP address, you have to request it from your internet service provider, and typically, there is a surcharge per static IP address.

Changing a static IP address is kind of like changing a phone number. You need the ISP’s help to do it, and once you do change the IP, you have to manually update everything in your network.

Static IPs still come in IPv4 and IPv6 configurations, and they function as normal IP addresses. The only distinction is the fact that they don’t change.

Common Uses for Statis IP's

Static IP addresses are ideal for public-facing devices. Remote-access servers are the most common example. These could include web host servers, email servers, FTP servers, and anything else that is designed for regular access from users outside of the network.

When such a server or device uses a static IP address, it can be registered with a domain name server (DNS), making it easier for third-party devices to find and access your device’s IP.

Web hosting is the perfect example. If you host your own website, then odds are you want people to be able to access it. So, you set up the web server with a static IP address. You can pair that IP address with a domain name and register it with a DNS. Then, people can easily find and connect to your website.

Which Should You Use?

Considering the differences between dynamic and static IP addresses, which should you use?

Generally speaking, DHCP is the proper solution. It’s the standard in networking for a number of reasons, and at the top of the list is price. You typically have to pay for each static IP address. Meanwhile, DHCP addresses cost nothing, so DHCP is the cheaper solution. On top of that, static IPs have to be manually configured while DHCP is automated. So, DHCP is cheaper in terms of maintenance too.

DHCP also adds a layer of security to the devices that connect to it. Since the devices don’t have permanent IP addresses, it’s harder to directly connect to them. Instead, third-party devices connect to the DHCP server, and it acts as an intermediary for online communication. This means that any security run through the DHCP server effectively protects the endpoint devices too.

Still, if you need a static IP address, then DHCP is out of the question. It’s necessary for pretty much any type of host server, as mentioned before. If you need a static IP address, then use it. Otherwise, DHCP is the way to go.

Additional Learning Center Resources