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Static vs Dynamic IP Addresses: How to Make the Right Choice

IP addresses have different types, and you need to understand static vs dynamic IP addresses if you want to connect devices to a network. For instance, your router, smart speaker, lighting, security camera, and more will all work best with a particular type of address. It’s also something to consider if you run a gaming server, access a computer through a remote connection, or a myriad of other scenarios.

While each device has a unique identifying address on the network – its IP address – this can either be static or constantly changing. Each approach has its unique benefits, drawbacks, and use cases.

📚 For this post, we’ll look at static vs dynamic IP addresses in a number of areas:

At the end, we’ll sum up where each type would be suitable, and give you some advice on choosing one.

Comparing static vs dynamic IP addresses 💡

On the surface, static vs dynamic IP addresses seem similar. However, there are some fundamental differences of each. First off, let’s look at some of the core aspects of static vs dynamic IP addresses.

Static IP addresses

A static IP address is a unique numerical label that a device uses to connect to a network. They have a number of defining characteristics and aspects:

  • Static IP addresses never change – hence the name. They provide a consistent and easily recognizable identity for devices on a network.
  • You can manually assign and configure static IP addresses, which gives you precise control over resource allocation and network access. However, in other situations, such as email and web servers, you will already have an assigned static IP.
  • A static IP address is great for devices that require constant and reliable accessibility, such as servers, routers, and printers.

In general, static IP addresses let you set up remote connections and access network services with ease. They can also help maintain a consistent performance for devices requiring steady communication.

However, Static IPs can be inflexible – think of them as always in use and taking up resources in comparison to dynamic IP addresses. What’s more, static IPs may pose potential security risks due to their constant visibility.

Dynamic IP addresses

Dynamic IP addresses represent a more flexible and efficient way to allocate IPs to devices. Much like static IPs, dynamic IPs also have their own unique facets:

  • Dynamic IP addresses utilize a network management protocol – DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). This dynamically allocates IP addresses to devices from a pool for a set period, then returns them once the ‘lease’ expires.
  • As such, dynamic IPs are temporary and can change often. This constant flux boosts security as it makes devices harder to target.
  • Dynamic IP allocation can optimize resource usage by reassigning addresses based on real-time demand. This lets networks accommodate varying numbers of devices and scale to the demand.

If you have a network of a large number of devices that require occasional internet access, dynamic IPs will be ideal. However, dynamic IP addresses can also require additional configuration for services such as remote access or gaming that depend on consistency.

The pros and cons of static vs dynamic IP addresses 👍👎

Part of choosing between static vs dynamic IP addresses is weighing up the positives and drawbacks. In this section, we’ll compare both types of address in detail.

Advantages of Static IP Addresses

Static IPs are consistent, and provide a fixed and reliable address. This makes it easier to access your devices and services. As such, they are ideal where you need constant availability. However, this isn’t the only benefit of using static IP addresses:

  • They are great when you need a permanent online presence. Websites, email servers, gaming servers, and more all benefit from static IPs. It’s the same story for your Virtual Private Network (VPN) or remote desktop connection.
  • Using static IPs to manage devices on a network is often more straightforward. This helps to streamline your network configurations.
  • You won’t need to constantly update DNS records or reconfigure devices due to a changing IP address. In fact, static IPs can result in quicker DNS resolution as there’s no need for dynamic updates and propagation delays.
  • Static IPs give you greater control over which IP addresses you use in your network, which will reduce the potential for conflicts.

A static address can be beneficial for security, especially when managing access control lists or setting up secure connections. However, there are issues with static IP addresses. We’ll look at those next.

Disadvantages of Static IP Addresses

While static IP addresses have their locked-in use cases, they can also attract malicious actors and undermine your security. In fact, there are a few other reasons you might not want to use a static IP address:

  • They might not be ideal for networks that exponentially grow, as each new device will require manual configuration.
  • If you run a dynamic network environment, unused static IPs can take valuable addresses away from the dynamic IP pool.
  • You’ll have to assign and update each device’s IP address, which can eat away at your time.
  • For larger networks, managing numerous static IPs can be more complex and error-prone. If you mismanage your addresses, this can lead to conflicts and disruptions.
  • Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) charge extra for static IP addresses.

We’ll get into when to use static IP addresses later on. First though, let’s tackle the pros and cons of dynamic IP addresses.

Advantages of Dynamic IP Addresses

You’ll find that when it comes to static vs dynamic IP addresses, the latter is more common and popular. There are a number of reasons for this, but simplicity is a big selling point.

Of course, dynamic IPs offer a number of other key advantages too:

  • The temporary nature of these addresses makes it harder for hackers to target specific devices.
  • You’ll likely see less IP conflicts, as the DHCP looks after the allocation and management aspects.

One of the biggest benefits is that you don’t have to worry about manual configuration. The DHCP automatically assigns addresses, which cuts down on potential errors and boosts the User Experience (UX). This allocation can also help your resources, as assigning IPs will be based on real-time demand.

The MacOS Network Preferences screen, showing a dynamic IP address for a router and device.
You can check whether your computer and router’s IP address is dynamic within your operating system (OS) settings.

Some of these benefits also bleed into other related technology that you’ll benefit from. For instance, Dynamic DNS (DDNS) integration gives you remote access to devices without the need to track a constantly changing IP address.

Disadvantages of Dynamic IP Addresses

Despite the overwhelming positives of dynamic IP addresses, they have weak areas too. For example, they’re not good if you need constant availability from your network or server. What’s more, renewing IP leases can occasionally cause temporary connection issues.

Here’s a quick breakdown of where else they fall short:

  • Dynamic IPs can make it harder to track specific devices on the network, which can give you a headache when you have to hunt down a device.
  • You may see reliability issues when you introduce dynamic IPs to services that rely on static ones, such as web hosting or email servers. Also, changing IPs on a regular basis can lead to DNS propagation delays. This will affect how quickly your users can access your services.
  • In some cases, dynamic IPs might require more setup and configuration, particularly for devices with specific requirements.
  • Although dynamic IPs do enhance security, they might not offer the same level of isolation as static IPs in certain scenarios.

In the last section, we mention DDNS for remote access scenarios. However, you may not want to rely on third-party DDNS services given the inherent complexity they can introduce. This brings us onto where you’d use static vs dynamic IP addresses.

When you’d use static vs dynamic IP addresses 🖱️

As with any decision, choosing between static vs dynamic IP addresses depends on your specific needs. However, there are clear use cases for both of these.

Static IP addresses

Web hosting is one thing that benefits from static IP addresses. This can ensure your site is always accessible through a consistent address. Of course, this makes it easier for users to find and access your site.

You’ll also use static IPs for email servers too, as they will help to maintain your server’s reputation. Email service providers typically use IP reputation to determine the legitimacy of emails, and a static IP will help to boost this.

The Spamhaus IP and domain reputation checker tool.
The Spamhaus Project provides a simple tool to check IP and domain reputation.

If you require secure remote access to your network or utilize a VPN for work reasons, a static IP will be essential. This will ensure that your remote connection always points to the right address.

If you stream online or run a multiplayer gaming server, a consistent connection with no lag and low ‘ping’ times is vital. This is perfect for a static IP address, as dynamic IPs can affect gameplay factors due to the ever-changing allocation.

The features page from Hostinger's Minecraft Server plan, highlighting the use of static IP addresses, to help readers understand static vs dynamic IP addresses.
Hostinger’s Minecraft servers feature static IPv4 or IPv6 addresses.

Even devices such as networked printers or cameras benefit from static IPs. This lets you consistently access your devices without needing to track changing addresses. It’s a similar situation for Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as security cameras, smart lighting, speaker assistant setups, and more.

Dynamic IP addresses

Speaking of your IoT devices at home, most home networks use dynamic IPs. They’re easy to set up and manage, and your smartphones, laptops, and tablets can connect without the need for manual configuration.

Dynamic IPs are suitable for guest networks too, such as a guest Wi-Fi at home. They can give you and your visitors easy and secure temporary access without the need for complex setup.

A screen showing the credentials for a guest Wi-Fi account.

On the whole, dynamic IPs suit situations where a high number of devices have to connect and disconnect to the network often. This also goes for situations where mobile devices switch between Wi-Fi networks and cellular data. Here, static configurations would be a nightmare due to the constantly shifting geolocation and network state.

Static vs dynamic IP addresses: security considerations 🔒️

While static vs dynamic IP addresses have significance with regards to convenience, they can also affect your security too. Think of your IP address as your digital identity card – it helps computers identify and communicate with your device. One difference between static vs dynamic IP addresses lies in how they handle this identity.

The permanence of static IP addresses makes it easy to find your device online. This is convenient, but it might not always be the safest option. For instance, hackers could potentially target your front door security camera through its permanent IP address. As another example, spam is prevalent on the web in partially due to static IP addresses.

A map that shows various threats of email servers across the globe.
You’ll find many email servers that flag as spam or malware, and a dynamic IP can combat this threat [1].

In contrast, dynamic IP addresses are a moving target. This constant change makes it harder for bad actors to target your device, which will enhance your online security. However, the trade-off is less convenience for certain devices that need a fixed address.

Summing up: Whether to choose static vs dynamic IP addresses for your server 🧑‍💻

On the whole, deciding between static vs dynamic IP addresses for your server depends on your priorities and specific requirements.

Static IP addresses are reliable and consistent – ideal for stable connections. However, this can also attract unwanted attention from malicious users seeking fixed targets. On the other hand, dynamic IP addresses provide an added layer of security through unpredictability. The downside is that they might require more management.

In many cases, you may not even need to make this decision. Many ISPs will determine your address type for you, although you can change it with some technical know-how.

👉 Now that you understand the difference between static vs dynamic IP addresses, check out our article on IPv4 vs IPv6 addresses to expand your IP address knowledge even further!