The internet is one of the most impressive tools mankind has ever built. It allows us to conduct business from anywhere in the world. We can bank from the smartphones we keep in our pockets. We have at our fingertips more information than any generation before us. We can even share memes with our friends when we should be working. The use cases are endless.

But do we really understand how the internet works?

The very short answer is IP addresses. These universal numerical codes are used to route data from one device to another, which is what keeps the internet chugging along. There are a lot of different flavors of IP address, though, two of which we’re going to look at today: static and dynamic IP addresses.

Static and Dynamic IP Addresses: A Primer

One of the simplest ways to understand the concept of an IP address is that it’s a lot like your home mailing address. Just like your street number allows the postman to deliver the mail intended for you, your IP address allows the data you request over the internet to come to your device.

FYI: Beyond static and dynamic, another difference in IP addresses is if they are older IPv4 addresses or newer IPv6. There are about 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses available, but we’re running out of them. In comes IPv6, with 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses. (Yes, that’s a lot of trillions.)

Most IP addresses are dynamic, meaning they change as your internet connection changes. It would be like your home address changing every time you walked out your door. Useful online, but not so much in the physical world. That’s because your IP address identifies your connection, not the device itself.

Some IP addresses never change though. These are called dedicated or static IP addresses, and they also play an important role in keeping the internet functional. Do you know which type you have?

What Type of IP Address Do I Have?

If you’re asking this question, it’s nearly guaranteed that you have a dynamic IP address. These are the addresses handed out by your internet service provider every time a connection is made to the internet using their network. Want to test it? Here’s how:

  • Find your IP address.
  • Disconnect your router.
  • Wait five minutes.
  • Plug your router back in.
  • Check your IP address again.
  • See whether it’s different.

Neat, right? Without you doing a thing, your IP address has changed. That’s because of something known as dynamic host control protocol (DHCP). Without getting too into the digital weeds, this is the way your internet service provider “leases” your device an IP address. Because they can change them out, the process is more efficient.

Pro Tip: If you want to change your dynamic IP address, there are several ways to do it. We’ve written an entire guide to changing IP addresses to make your life easier.

If a dynamic IP address connects you to the internet and you don’t even notice when it changes, why would you want it to be static? Who needs that?

Do I Want a Static IP Address?

If you’re using the internet for day-to-day stuff like shopping, social media, banking, and watching cat videos, your dynamic IP address is going to get the job done. If you’re doing more advanced networking, though, you may need to consider switching to a static IP address.

Here are some reasons you may want a static IP address:

  • You run a business with remote employees. Static IP addresses make it easier for employees to access data stored on company servers and can improve video-conferencing connections.
  • You want to set up a server. If you’re running any type of server in your home, you’ll probably want it to be assigned a static IP address so your peripheral devices will always be able to connect to it.
  • You host a website. If you run your own website and you’re not doing it through a service like WordPress, you’ll probably want to store that site’s data on a device with a static IP address or run an FTP server.
  • Enhancing geo-location services. Let’s say you’re a sailor who wants to know the weather conditions on your particular lake. A static IP address will help weather forecasting services pinpoint your exact location and deliver more accurate results to search queries.

Overall, static IP addresses are normally assigned to critical pieces of infrastructure that store data other devices will regularly access. If that doesn’t apply to you, then you’ll likely be fine using a standard-issue dynamic IP address. There’s another good reason for sticking with dynamic, too, which we’ll get into below.

Which Is More Secure: a Dynamic or Static IP Address?

Dynamic IP addresses offer more security simply because they are always changing. That adds a layer of complication to things if a hacker is looking to swipe your address to use as the starting point for scams or identity theft. That said, even your dynamic IP address is shockingly easy to find — unless, of course, you take proactive measures to hide it.

Using a VPN to Hide your IP Address

There are several ways to hide or change your IP address, but none are superior to using a virtual private network, or VPN. We have more on this in our VPN buyer’s guide, but the long and short of it is: A VPN will not only hide your IP address from prying eyes, but it will also encrypt your data so anyone who intercepts it won’t be able to read it. They’re not totally foolproof, but they’re the next best thing to using an online cloaking device.

NordVPN’s stylish, intuitive desktop client is packed with features

NordVPN’s stylish, intuitive desktop client is packed with features

Pro Tip: There are even VPN services that offer static IP addresses. Check out our NordVPN review for more information. You’ll have to pay a little more, but it’s the way to go if you’re running your own server and want it protected.

If you’re interested in keeping your IP address to yourself while bolstering your cybersecurity to the stratosphere, we recommend taking a look at our roundup of the best VPNs of 2023. You’re certain to find a service that fits your needs there.