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An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a distinct identification number, for
communication between computer network devices, like computers, printers, fax
machines and servers. In simple words, it is like the number of an apartment or
a phone number. However, there is one basic exception - It can be reassigned
frequently, if you are a residential user, as in the case of dial-up.
There are two kinds of IP addresses: Static and Dynamic. Semi-permanent
devices like servers, use static IPs. Internet service providers, use dynamic IP
addresses. In this case, the IP address can be assigned based on the number of
people logged-in on the network.
The server that receives a request for an address usually allocates them on
the basis of a protocol, or in some cases, randomly. The most commonly used
protocol is DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). There are two versions
in use, Version 4 and version 6. Each version defines an IP address differently.
The odd numbered versions are experimental.
Further, IP addresses are divided in five classes. Class A constitutes nearly
50% of all IP addresses. This class is meant for large networks, like those used
by international companies. Class B networks are medium sized, like those used
in Universities. Class C networks are commonly used for small companies. A Class
D network, which is slightly different from the previous three, is usually used
for sending data packets to a special group of registered addresses. Class E is
only for experimental applications.
The RIR (Regional Internet Registry) provides the IP addresses. The RIR is
based on geographical distribution. The IP addresses can be traced to their user
location through RIR. At the same time, it offers protection against hackers
that could try and access the user's data. All personal information that is
recorded by the ISP (Internet Service Provider) is kept strictly confidential.
The information can be disclosed only if a court order is issued against the
user for legal implications. The ISP address can be used to trace the city or
state from where the Internet was accesses from. The user can also check the IP
address assigned, using the Internet and certain software packages.