What is an IP Address?

When we’re working with our customers to set up VoIP or Cloud services, we can sometimes encounter some confusion. One question we get fairly often is, “What is an IP Address?” To help our customers fully understand their systems, we've created this article to explain what an IP address is, the difference between private and public IP addresses and why VoIP and Cloud companies may require this information from you.

What is an IP address?

IP addresses are used to identify every computer connected to a specific network. This could either be on a private network such as the one at your office or a public one. The process of identifying each computer is important for sending and receiving information. IP addresses are formatted as a variety of numbers that symbolize information about the computer’s network. These addresses are normally written as four numbers with one to three digits apiece separated by a period (.). The four numbers fall anywhere from 0 - 255. For example:

Private IP addresses

Private IP addresses are also known as internal IP addresses. Computers connected within this private network can communicate together using their private IP addresses.

Private IP addresses can’t be the same within the same private network however, they can be the same as a different computer in another private network because they won’t be recognized in each other’s network. That being said, private IP addresses come in four specific formats with different strands of numbers following after.

Keep in mind, this address just allows for internal communication. In order to access the Internet, a computer must first create a public IP address.

Public IP addresses

Public IP addresses, also known as external IP addresses, allow computers to identify each other and communicate over the Internet. A public IP address is generated when a computer on a private IP address connects to the Internet. This number then becomes visible to everyone on the Internet and allows the computer to receive information that will be delivered to the private IP address.

While your computer’s public IP address may change each time you access the Internet, no two computers can have the same public IP address at the same time.

Why VoIP and Cloud companies may need your IP address

Even though most of the time VoIP and Cloud companies can set up your services without your IP address, there are some instances when they may ask for specific IP addresses from you.

For instance, your private IP address may be request if your provider is working on issues regarding one-way audio. As for public IP addresses, you may be asked for this number if you need help setting up firewalls or access-lists.

The type of information your provider needs really just varies depending on your specific setup including the size of your network and the service you’re using.