The best business broadband deals include a static IP address. It can make a world of difference to your broadband speeds and, since internet connectivity is critical for businesses, you need to know how to get the best, fastest and most reliable connection possible - but what is an IP address anyway? We explain the ins and outs of IP addresses and why a static IP address makes a substantial difference to your broadband speeds.
What is an IP address?
IP stands for ‘internet protocol’. A public IP address is the unique code assigned to every device when it connects to the internet. It’s the long number separated by dots and looks something like this: 184.108.40.206
Your public IP address is the internet equivalent of your home address and postcode. To know where to deliver the information (websites) you want, the internet needs to be able to access your IP address, just like the postal delivery services need to know where to deliver your mail.
There are two kinds of public IP address: dynamic and static. Dynamic, meaning in a state of constant change, and static, meaning lacking movement or change, these two different types of IP address have strengths and limitations.
What’s wrong with having a dynamic IP address?
With residential broadband, IP addresses are (almost) always dynamic. That means that, in theory, your internet service provider (ISP) can change it at any time. When you’re connected to your home broadband, you could have a different IP address when you switch off your device and switch it on again. On the other hand, it’s equally possible for your dynamic IP address to remain the same for months on end. The point is, a dynamic IP address is unpredictable.
The reason dynamic IP addresses change is because there is a limited number of IP addresses available. There are more users accessing the internet than IP addresses so they need to recycle those IP addresses. Your device is assigned - or leased - a dynamic IP address for a limited time and then that address is put back into the ISP’s pool.
So are we running out of IP addresses?Yes and no. IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) is the most commonly used protocol for connecting devices to the internet. Unfortunately, the number of IP addresses is finite. To solve this problem, IPv6 is currently in development and will allow internet traffic to continue to grow unimpeded.
These constant changes to public IP addresses are managed by something called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which is a server that controls the automatic assignment of IP addresses. Since DHCP precludes the need for manual configuration, one of the advantages of dynamic IP addresses is that there is no effort required on your part to set them up.
Some smaller businesses, under certain conditions, can get by with ever-changing dynamic IP addresses. However, there are numerous reasons why many businesses are far better off with a static IP address. Read on to find out!
Six benefits of a static IP address
We can think of plenty of reasons why it makes sense for businesses to go the extra mile and procure static IP addresses - here are six to get you started:
VOIP tools - Voice Over Internet Protocol - function much better with a static address. You’ve probably experienced video conferences, remote meetings or Skype calls where the image freezes or the connection fails completely.
With a static IP address your VOIP calls and teleconferences are far less likely to suffer interruptions and freezes because the connection remains stable. More efficient communication leads to better productivity, which is obviously good news for your profits.
2. Remote access
Employees expect a flexible workplace to be able to offer them home working. You’ll need a static IP address to set up fully functional remote working. With a dynamic IP address, when an employee tries to connect to your server the incoming request will fail every time the IP address changes. With a static IP address, the request will always be forwarded correctly, to the right destination, and the connection to your server will be seamless.
3. Faster download and upload speeds
Taking payments with internet-enabled point of sale software, sending invoices,and a whole host of other business applications require a stable connection. Dynamic IP addresses experience more downtime, which is bad news for your business since you don’t want your internet connection to drop when you’re in the middle of a transaction.
Businesses using cloud EPoS systems need stable, fast and reliable connectivity. With a static IP address you are far less likely to be affected by downtime, which could be costly for your business.
4. More accurate geolocation
Customers, suppliers, collaborators and anyone else who needs to know where you are located will be able to find you more easily with a static IP address. This is because apps that rely on being able to identify locations correctly through GPS will not work properly if they try to connect to a public dynamic IP address.
5. CCTV video streaming
Security-conscious business owners with CCTV set up to monitor their premises will need a static IP address in order to stream the video footage remotely. Since you can’t personally be on site at all times, and even if you are you can’t see everything at once, you need to be able to monitor what’s really going on, as well as demonstrate a deterrent to potential intruders.
To get the most out of your surveillance cameras, a static IP address is essential for remote access to the system. Some CCTV manufacturers may provide a static IP address service but your ISP will be the best place to start.
6. Hosting your business website
If your business run its own server, email system and/or hosts a website you need a static IP address. Otherwise, anyone trying to access your website might be able to find it one day but not the next because your public IP address changes. A static IP address is absolutely key for remote access to your servers.
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Do I need a static IP address to set up a website?
For starting up your own business website, you can do it without a static IP address. Small to medium size businesses tend to use web hosting for their own websites; for example GoDaddy and Shopify are popular hosts for business websites and online stores. This means that all the data for your website is stored on a server provided by the host and through that server your website is accessible to anyone on the internet. Bigger businesses that host their own websites and email servers will need to use a static IP address.
How do I get a static IP address?
Static IP addresses come as standard with most of the business broadband deals from BT, Virgin Media, Talktalk and bOnline. Total monthly costs for these broadband packages range from about £27 per month to £50 for superfast fibre business broadband with one static IP address included.
With business broadband deals, the standard is to have one static IP address included. If you want more, for example if you host multiple servers, simply contact your ISP to ask for additional IP addresses. There will be a small additional monthly charge of anything between £1 and £5 per additional IP address.
You’ll need some assistance from your ISP to set up a static IP address properly. With business-class broadband deals you should be guaranteed appropriate technical support for configuring static IP addresses. Check if you have a service level agreement that specifies this kind of technical help.
What else do I need to know about static IP addresses?
Make sure your security measures are up to scratch because a static IP address could be more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Dynamic IP addresses by their nature are slightly less likely to be hacked simply because they change before hackers get the chance to figure out how to access your connection. Having said that, with proper firewalls and antivirus software - often provided as standard in business broadband plans - your network should still be safe with a static IP address.
In terms of cost, yes, there’s a premium to be paid for static IP addresses. For small businesses on a tight budget who don’t host their own website, nor use a lot of VOIP tools, an entry-level business broadband deal without the extra cost of a static IP address should do the job. However, as your business grows we would strongly advise you to keep in mind the option of adding a static IP address to your IT solutions toolbox.