A dedicated IP address is an IP that you have sole use of. It isn’t shared with any other domain names. Your domain name and IP address are tied together. So, if you type in your IP address it will take you directly to your website.

Think of it like the address to your home. Your address is your IP address, while your home is your website.

Some styles of hosting may have a dedicated IP address included in the package, while others times you may have to add it to your order.

Below you’ll learn what an IP address is, how shared and dedicated IP addresses differ, and finally the benefits of dedicated IP hosting, so you can decide if this is something your site will require.

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What Is an IP Address?

Before we get into the different types of IP addresses that are available, let’s dig into what an IP address actually is. First, IP stands for Internet Protocol, but you’ll generally only see the abbreviation being used.

An IP address is a unique string of numbers that identify a computer that’s connected to the internet. In the case of your website, this IP address will identify the dedicated server where your website’s files are being stored. If you have a dedicated IP address you can actually access your website by typing in the IP address. It’ll display the same as if you just typed in your domain name.

IP addresses are part of the DNS system or the Domain Name System. Essentially, the DNS is basically one giant address book. Domain names are mapped out to various IP address. So, when you type a domain name into your address bar, your ISP will look up the domain name, and see the associated IP address.

All of this is done in an instant. Without this system in place, you’d have to type in an IP address every single time you wanted to visit a website. This could be time-consuming, and near impossible, considering the multiple of websites we visit every single day.

There are a few different types of IP addresses. Originally there were only IP addresses, but due to the fast growth of the internet, they literally ran out of IP addresses. So, now we also have IPv4 and IPv6 addresses as well. Both shared and dedicated IP addresses apply, whether you’re using IPv4 or an IPv6 address.

What Is a Shared IP Address?

Shared IP addresses are much more common than dedicated IP address. With a shared IP address, your IP is being used by multiple different domains. Most shared hosts today will employ a shared IP address, as most sites won’t need to use a dedicated IP address.

However, it’s also possible to have a shared IP address, even when you’re not using shared web hosting. For example, you could have managed WordPress hosting, but still, be using a shared IP address. So, you wouldn’t be sharing server resources, but you could still be sharing an IP address.

With shared web hosting, you are sharing server hardware and networking features with a variety of different users. Usually, this means you’re sharing the IP address as well, but this isn’t always the case.

Shared vs Dedicated IP Addresses

Now that you have a better understanding of what shared and dedicated IP addresses are, let’s see how the two compare.

It can help to look at this through the lens of hosting. Most hosting companies will offer both shared and dedicated hosting. With shared hosting plans, you are essentially renting a space on a shared server environment. Here you’ll share server resources with a variety of different users, which helps to keep the costs low for you.

With dedicated hosting, you’re renting a single server. This way all of the server’s resources are reserved entirely for you. The costs will be higher, but you’ll get access to greater levels of storage, performance, bandwidth, and security.

The two forms of IP addresses work in a similar manner.

With shared hosting plans you have a ton of sites using the same server, so they’ll also be using the same IP address. While if you’re on a dedicated host, there’s only one IP address for that server, so it will be yours and yours alone.

Dedicated IP Addresses and SSL Certificates

A dedicated IP address used to be a requirement in order to obtain an SSL certificate. However, a new technology called SNI (Server Name Identification) makes it possible to obtain an SSL certificate without the need for a dedicated IP. Instead of an SSL certificate that matches the IP address, it will match the server names.

You can still obtain an SSL certificate with a dedicated IP address, however, it’s no longer a requirement. But, this also depends on your hosting provider, as they might have strict requirements for the type of IP address required for an SSL certificate.

By adding an SSL certificate to your site you have the benefit of improved security, and it’s a must have if you’re running an eCommerce store, or any other kind of site that requires your users to input any sensitive information.

Plus, with Google Chrome’s latest update, having SSL active on your site will enable you to upgrade to a secure HTTPS connection. This will help you rank higher in the search engines, and help you avoid displaying a “site is not secure” message to your visitors.

Dedicated IP Address Benefits

Having a dedicated IP address can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. It’s not perfect for every style of site, but it could be advantageous for your site if you think the benefits below are worthwhile.

Here are the biggest benefits of using dedicated IP hosting.

1. Easy Website Access

Sometimes you might want to access your website directly via FTP. If you have a dedicated IP address you can remotely access your server anytime you’d like.

There might be a circumstance that requires you to view your website via it’s IP address. For example, maybe you haven’t launched your site, and you want to see what it looks like before launching.

A dedicated IP address will provide you with direct server access, all without having to change the DNS settings for your domain.

2. Some Applications Require It

If you have a unique server setup, or your site will require certain scripts and applications in order to run, you might require a dedicated IP address. Since shared IP addresses are so common most applications will run just fine with a shared IP.

But, if you are running unique apps or server scripts, double check that having a dedicated IP address isn’t a necessity.

3. It Could Benefit Your Email Capabilities

If you’re using a domain-branded email address, then you might be sending emails through your host. If you’re running your website through a shared IP address, then there’s a chance you could run into issues with your email.

Although it’s rare there are cases where another user who’s running the same IP address might get the IP addresses blacklisted or banned. In this case, it could affect your email capabilities and even the send and deliverability rates of your email.

In this case, it might be a good idea to opt for a dedicated IP address, as this will isolate your website and associated email from any other websites. Think of it as a way to protect both your email and website’s reputation.

However, if you are going to be sending a ton of business emails, it’s probably a better idea to simply use a third-party email provider. These web hosting providers are setup in such a way where you’ll have much higher deliverability rates, and a team working to ensure that blacklisting will never occur.

4. Higher Level of Server Control

By using a dedicated IP address you can do a lot more with your server. Since you’ll have direct server access you have a lot more freedom and customization abilities. Of course, this depends if you have the technical skills to back it up.

For example, with a dedicated IP address, you could run your own IP-based server environment. Of course, you’ll need your host’s permission to do this. But, if you require this level of control for your website, or online projects, then using a dedicated IP just makes sense.

5. You Might Need it for Your SSL Certificate

Having a dedicated IP address used to be a requirement to install an SSL certificate. This is no longer the case for every hosting provider, but some hosts still require it. At HostGator, it depends on your hosting configuration.

Some server setups will require it, while others are able to use SNI in order to install an SSL certificate on a shared host.

Finally, a dedicated IP address could provide you with a boost in performance and security. But, usually, this will only occur if you’re using a low-quality web host that doesn’t actually ban users with spammy websites or behavior. Most often, the domain will simply be blacklisted, but there’s the chance that the IP can be blacklisted as well.

Why Do I Need Dedicated IP Hosting?

Not every website will need to have a dedicated IP address. In fact, if this is your first website, then you might not need dedicated IP hosting services until later in the game.

The biggest reasons you’ll require a dedicated IP address are if you have a very high traffic website, require regular FTP access directly to your site, or are concerned about mass email deliverability.

In some cases, there’s a chance that there might be a small impact in your SEO, but there really isn’t enough data to provide this point. A dedicated IP address can improve your site speed if your site’s been lagging due to other sites who are sharing the same IP address, but often switching to a dedicated hosting provider will do more than simply upgrading to a dedicated IP address.

Keep in mind that dedicated IP addresses isn’t the same thing as getting a dedicated host. You can have shared IP addresses on a dedicated server, just like you can have dedicated IP addresses on a shared server.

Probably the biggest reason for upgrading to a dedicated IP address is if your site needs an SSL certificate. Although not every host, or SSL certificate provider, will require you to have a dedicated IP address in order to install it.

Is Dedicated IP Hosting Right for You?

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a dedicated IP address is, the benefits it can bring, and how it differs from the standard shared IP address.

Chances are, you probably won’t need to upgrade to a dedicated IP address, at least while your site is young. If you do want improved speed, security, and require direct access to your server, then it might be a worthwhile investment or add-on to your existing hosting package.

However, if you’re looking for much-improved site benefits, then consider upgrading all the way to a dedicated hosting environment with an included dedicated IP address.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.