SMB: What’s a Dedicated IP?

SMB: What’s a Dedicated IP? A reader asks…

I’m a small business owner and have a website with email services. My hosting provider sent me a discount offer for a “dedicated IP”. What is that, and would I want that?

An IP is an numerical internet protocol address, which is used to identify specific computers, servers and other devices on the internet, as well as on private networks. You are probably most familiar with the older IPv4 protocol – this is four sets of numbers separated by periods. Each computer, server or device on the internet must use a unique IP address.

For web hosting companies, the “shared hosting” service uses a shared IP – multiple customers use the same internet IP address.

You likely are using “dedicated hosting” but still may be sharing an IP with other customers. A dedicated IP address is one that you are assigned by your web hosting provider, which is NOT shared with any of their other customers.

man-looking-at-laptop-with-security-concerns-image-from-shutterstock

So why would you want a dedicated IP for your website and email services? Two words: security and performance. Your web hosting provider runs your website on a server that has a public IP which is unique on the internet. That server also hosts many other of their customers’ websites, and the server manages the routing of communications to each customer.

Since you’re sharing the same IP as other customers, their bad behavior can affect your security. The most common problem with using a shared IP is if another customer (of the web hosting provider) sends out spam (unwanted junk email). When recipients of those junk emails complain to their internet service provider (ISP), the ISP may choose to block all communications coming from the IP address of the spammer. You can see then that your outgoing emails would get blocked along with the spammer’s. With your own dedicated IP, you don’t share it with other customers of your web hosting provider, so you won’t be affected by any potential spammers.

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Having a dedicated IP also can improve the speed or responsiveness of your website. With a shared IP address, the web hosting company’s server has to decide where incoming traffic is going, and route to the appropriate website. With a dedicated IP, there’s no delay since all traffic for that IP is only going to one place.

Separate from the issue of using a shared versus dedicated IP address is the issue of using shared versus dedicated hosting services. Shared hosting services are very low-cost, and mean that you’re sharing space with other customers of the web hosting provider. This can be both a security and performance issue. Dedicated hosting services (sometimes called “Virtual Private Server” or VPS) means that your web hosting provider has given you dedicated resources – either a whole server computer or a virtual “slice” of one that’s separate from other slices. No other customers use any of your dedicated resources – dedicated disk space on the server, your own dedicated RAM, and your own dedicated IP address. This ensures that nothing of your business is shared with other customers of the web hosting provider. A simple comparison would be living in a condominium versus a living in a single-family home.

Many small businesses use simple and cheap shared hosting services, because their needs are simple and their budgets are tight. Once their business grows and their online presence becomes more popular, they may upgrade to dedicated hosting services and a dedicated IP.

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