The difference between shared and dedicated IP addresses
Each computer connected to the Internet is assigned a unique IP address for the purposes of communication. An IP address is a 32-bit numeric address usually expressed as 4 numbers from 0-255 separated by dots, for example 192.168.0.123. There are billions of addresses possible, however, the number is finite.
In the Web hosting industry there are two types of IP address...
- Dedicated IP address (also called static IP) means that a website has its own IP address. Whether you type in your URL or the numeric form of its IP address, both will bring you to the same domain.
- Shared IP address means that multiple websites share the same address. Web servers can determine by the domain entered in a user's browser which website is being requested. Typing in the IP address will bring you to some kind of generic page instead of the specific site you want.
Due to the rapid increase of the number of registered domain names and the finite number of IP addresses, Web hosting providers are forced to use shared IP's when possible. In fact, hundreds of websites often share the same address. Static IP hosting is no longer the norm and usually costs more.
Who needs a dedicated IP address?
Generally, having a website on a shared IP address will not cause you any harm. However, there are a few cases when a static IP is required...
- Having your own Private SSL Certificate. Secure e-commerce websites need SSL certificates for accepting credit cards online. Web hosts usually offer a shared SSL certificate where clients can share the Web host's SSL. If you are using your Web hosting provider's shared SSL you don't need a static IP.
- Anonymous FTP. It means that anyone using the FTP software can access files in a special directory of your site. It's called Anonymous FTP because the user name used to access is "anonymous." Many Web hosting providers require a static IP for the anonymous FTP function to work properly.
- You want to access your website by FTP or Web browser even when the domain name is inaccessible, such as domain name propagation periods.
Dedicated IP hosting and search engines
There has been debate in the SEO industry for awhile regarding whether or not using a dedicated IP address is better than having a shared IP for your website...
- Some SEOs suppose that there really is no good reason to obtain static IP Web hosting. Your site will not perform any better by having its own static IP.
- Some others theorize that your choice of dedicated IP hosting vs. shared hosting might slightly affect your rankings (i.e. it's a factor considered by search engines).
- Yet others suppose that sharing an IP address with known spam or adult sites raises a warning flag with search engines, so some of them may respond by banning the entire IP address from their index.
Most probably, these fears are greatly exaggerated. Since the majority of sites on the Web are hosted via shared IP, it would be unprofitable to search engines to penalize a site based on IP. Search engines are able to ban anything on a domain name instead of an entire IP neighborhood. So it is search engine safe to use a shared IP hosting. Moreover, almost all hosting will eventually be shared in order to preserve IP addresses.
Don't worry if your site is on a shared IP address. In most cases, this doesn't affect you. Dedicated IP hosting may be required if you need to have some sort of special access to your website, like SSL or Anonymous FTP. If you have no special requirements, then a shared IP will work fine under most conditions.
I've managed to find an inexpensive host that offers dedicated IP addresses for no extra fee.
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