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Do You Really Need a Dedicated IP?

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Most web hosts offer dedicated IPs as part of their hosting packages.

Even if a dedicated IP isn’t part of the deal, you can normally buy dedicated IPs for a monthly fee on top of your subscription.

Should you buy one?

There’s a lot of debate around dedicated IPs and the pros and cons of using one. Let’s look at the arguments: we’ll first find out what a dedicated IP is, then discuss how it might benefit you.

What Does a Dedicated IP Actually Do?

To understand dedicated IPs, we need to understand how IP addresses work.

IP addresses route internet traffic to the right place, much like a zip code or post code. Like postal codes, different people can share the same IP.

  • If you have a shared hosting account, you probably share your site IP address with dozens of other people. In some cases, you might share it with hundreds of other sites. Sharing is not a problem. The host has software to interpret requests for different sites on the same IP, ensuring that it can serve the right content to each person, and it takes milliseconds.
  • A dedicated IP address is exclusively yours. You might choose to serve different sites from that IP address, but you’re ultimately in control of who’s using it.

You would think that a dedicated IP was better, right? Let’s look at some of the benefits we associate with them.

SEO and Dedicated IPs

There are two aspects to the SEO argument: ranking and spam.

Some search engine optimization (SEO) professionals believe search engines are more likely to trust a site on a dedicated IP address and give it a higher search engine ranking. There is a lot of debate about that theory, and almost no evidence to back it up.

Google does use IP addresses in some of its calculations, but mostly to determine how much to trust an inbound link. Links from similar IPs are usually trusted less. But the odds of being impacted by this are slim, even on a shared server.

In terms of spam, Google may distrust sites that share an IP range with spammers, junk blogs and other violators of their ‘best practices’. On a shared server, the unethical behavior of someone on your shared IP could result in a penalty for everyone – in theory.

But it’s not really clear cut. Google obviously understands that millions of websites use shared hosting, so blanket penalties would be counter productive.

Speed and Dedicated IPs

Can a dedicated IP address help your site load more quickly?

In some ways, you’d expect so. After all, there’s less traffic flowing to that IP.

But look at it another way. Every server has to inspect a packet, examine the request and deliver it to the correct domain. This holds true if there is one site on an IP or one thousand sites. Every server has to go through this process; the number of possible destinations doesn’t really matter.

As such, the difference in processing time is so small as to be imperceptible.

The Big Benefit of Dedicated IPs

There is one clear benefit of a dedicated IP. It allows you to do more with your server.

You need a dedicated IP address to host your own SSL certificate, for example. You can also run an FTP server off the IP address. You could run a gaming server or some other IP-based server (with your host’s permission).

Most Web hosts offer shared SSL certificates at will be good enough for the vast majority of sites, and very few people will ever need to run an IP-based FTP server. But in some cases, the benefits are clear.

Should You Bother With a Dedicated IP?

A dedicated IP is preferable, but you’ll get by just fine without one.

The benefits are quite specialized, and the SEO angle is now largely discredited.

The only thing to watch out for is spam. Subscribe to Google Webmaster Tools and stay on top of what Google thinks about your site. If it seems to be located in a ‘bad neighborhood’, migrate to a new host, and don’t rely on a dedicated IP to solve the problem.Keep up with posts like this by subscribing to our RSS feed, or following @WhoIsHosting on Twitter.

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Discussion

  • michellelund

    Interesting post, you cover exactly what I was going through.

    My host Godaddy shocked me when I discovered over 2k sites on my i.p and some were porn and some blatant virus ridden sites that downloaded exe upon arrival.

    However, I am glad you pointed out the loading time difference might be minimal.

    In fact….couldn’t a dedicated i.p actually DAMAGE your seo? Theory being that if you got blocked by Google for some small issue, you would be dead. But would Google block you so quickly is 2k sites also share that i.p. ?

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