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What is Dedicated IP Hosting?
Every Internet Protocol (IP) address is an identifier that allows information to flow across the internet. A dedicated IP is an IP address that is exclusively yours. Some hosts charge extra for them, and not everyone needs one.
Having a dedicated IP address can protect you from having your site banned if one of your server neighbors gets caught trying to put one over on the search engines. You can also protect your site from any potential penalties of this nature by simply choosing dedicated server hosting and not having to worry about what any other sites may or may not be doing.
Another benefit to choosing dedicated IP hosting is that most hosts will only allow you to set this type of hosting up once you've already set up a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. This provides encryption to your site, which is another level of security, and will be displayed in your site's URL with https:// rather than just http://, which lets users know they're on a secured site. So indirectly, selecting dedicated IP hosting can help your users feel more secure when using your site, which can be a boost for your brand and your business.
About IP Addresses
An IP address is a unique number that identifies a machine on the internet. In the IPv4 system, every IP address consists of four groups of digits, or octets, separated by dots. This system provides us with 4.3 billion unique combinations. No two IP addresses can be the same. The purpose of the Domain Name System (DNS) is to convert domain names into IP addresses.
(If you're still not sure how your computer finds the website you've asked for, we've put together a simple guide.
On a shared server, all sites on that server have the same IP address, because they are all on the same physical machine. For most people, this doesn't matter. Your host will automatically reroute traffic to your website, bypassing the others, and there's no perceptible speed difference. But sharing an IP can become a problem if:
- Propagation is taking a while, and you want to FTP into your hosting account right away
- You want to buy an SSL certificate to secure your site
- You want people to be able to visit your website using an IP address rather than a domain name
- You want full control over what your IP is being used for
- If you have a dedicated IP, you can do a lot more with your server
When You Definitely Need a Dedicated IP
Sometimes, a dedicated IP is the only way to run the services and applications you want to run. For example:
- Gaming servers require dedicated IP addresses
- Chat servers, such as Jabber, also require a dedicated IP to function
- You will need a dedicated IP if you want to process secure transactions, since you can't have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate on a shared IP
- Businesses sending large quantities of email may benefit from having a dedicated IP, since it can be whitelisted with mor confidence
SEO and Dedicated IPs
Some bloggers and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies claim that dedicated IP addresses are better for SEO, since Google prefers sites that don't share IPs. This isn't proven by any statistics that we have seen, although it is a controversial point.
There may be a small speed difference between shared hosting and other types of hosting, but this is not a direct relationship, since shared hosting accounts can have dedicated IP addresses. Server speed can still vary depending on many other factors.
We've also seen claims that sites with the same IP address are less trusted. Again, there isn't much in terms of evidence for this.
But most of these arguments are now moot, because Google has said it will be using SSL certificates as a factor in its search engine rankings. Since you need a dedicated IP for an SSL certificate, there's now a proven, albeit secondary, SEO benefit to having a dedicated IP.
IPv4 versus IPv6
IPv4 allows several billion unique IP addresses to be created. Now that everyone uses multiple devices, and multiple connections, and hosts multiple websites, it's conceivable that we could run out of IPs.
IPv6 addresses will be stored in AAAA records in our Domain Name System (DNS) records. They are not yet in common usage, but will become more common over the next five years. With IPv6, there are eight groups of hexadecimal numbers, separated by colons. This system will provide many billions of addresses, making it far easier to assign unique IPs to sites. In reality, we'll probably use it to create 64-bit IPs, which is double what we have now.
Many hosting companies are already offering IPv6 addresses, but not all routers can handle them. Before adding an IPv6 address to your account, it's best to research the pros and cons:
- Many routers ignore AAAA requests, making loading time very slow, since the client machine has to wait for the request to time out
- It may be possible to track individuals on the internet, raising privacy concerns
- Unique addresses mean it would be easier for advertisers to track us
- IPv6 addresses are less legible, so they are difficult to type, memorise or distribute
- Many internet users don't know what to do with an IPv6 address
Dedicated IP Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an IP address? In the context of the internet and web hosting, an IP address is a coded numerical sequence that uniquely identifies a computer or device on the internet.
- What does an IP address have to do with web hosting? Human users interact with addresses on the internet with human-readable “domain names” like example.com. However, the computers that run the internet do not use these names. Rather, every server is assigned a unique IP address. Domain name servers at your web host and throughout the domain name system route requests for the human readable name to the appropriate IP address, based on an index that matches names to addresses.
- So does every website have its own IP address? No. An IP address identifies a device — a server or cluster of servers. A single server might host dozens, or hundreds, of websites.
- So with a shared hosting plan, my website and other websites have the same IP address? Yes. In a shared hosting plan, the hosting company places several customer accounts on the same server. All the websites on those accounts all share the same computing resources and the same IP address.
- Are there any disadvantages to sharing an IP address with other websites? There can be. Firewalls often use IP addresses to identify spam or inappropriate content. This means that if one website or account holder on the same server does something that might cause the IP address to be blocked, your site might be blocked as well. Though shared hosting providers do a lot to mitigate this risk, it is still a possibility. Additionally, there is evidence that Google and other search engines will “punish” websites that share IP addresses with sites that engage in bad SEO behavior (such link farming, spam, and other tactics). It is unclear whether this is the case, but it might cause for concern.
- Is there any way to use dedicated IP addresses to improve SEO? This is sort of the inverse of the question about whether shared IP hosting can have negative consequences for SEO. Some people think that using multiple IP addresses can help mask the fact that multiple sites are owned and operated by the same entity. This matters if you are trying to use multiple sites to form a “link network,” where each one links to the other sites in the network in order to increase overall page rank. This is not an advisable strategy because Google and other search engines do not use IP address alone to determine if multiple sites are owned by each other. They actually analyze the topography of the linked network, along with its content, to determine whether links are natural or spammy. Obfuscating the connection through multiple IP addresses is unlikely to fool them. (Besides, if this did work, multiple shared hosting accounts would do the job just as well, if the point is the sites don’t share an IP address with each other, not that they don’t share an IP address with anybody.)
- What is dedicated IP address hosting? Many web hosting companies will assign you a unique IP address for your account for an additional fee. This is advertised as “Dedicated IP Address Hosting.” All the websites you host through that account will use that IP address, but no one else will.
- If I get a dedicated IP address, does that mean I’m no longer sharing server resources? Not necessarily. There is not a one-to-one relationship between physical (or even virtual) computers and IP addresses. If you have a shared hosting plan, and you add a dedicated IP address, you are still on the shared hosting plan. The only benefit you are getting is the dedicated IP address, nothing else changes about your access to computing resources.
- So a hosting plan that is specifically called “Dedicated IP Address Hosting” is a shared hosting plan? Probably. With other forms of hosting, like a Virtual Private Server (VPS), you will have a unique IP address no matter what. This will probably be mentioned in the “features” description of the hosting plan, but it usually isn’t the main selling point. You should look into the specific plan (because marketing pitches change all the time), but a hosting plan that goes to a lot of trouble to point out that you get a dedicated IP address is often going to be a typical shared hosting plan.
- Is there any reason I would specifically need a dedicated IP address? Yes. If you need an SSL security certificate so that you can run your pages on the HTTPS protocol, you will need your own IP address.
- Why would I need an SSL security certificate? The most common reason for an SSL security certificate is e-commerce. If you are processing credit cards on your site, you really should have a security certificate included in your plan. Email, text messaging, medical records, financial information and any other type of private communication should be done over HTTPS, so if your website is engaging in any of those things, you will need a security certificate and therefore, your own IP address.
- So if I need an SSL security certificate, I should get a Dedicated IP Address Hosting plan? Yes and no. You need at least a dedicated IP address. But as mentioned above, you can get a dedicated IP address on a shared hosting environment. This may not be suitable for your website for other reasons. If you need more speed, or specific control over your hosting environment, you may need to look at a Virtual Private Server.
- Dedicated IP Hosting vs. Virtual Private Server? If you need a Dedicated IP Address, there’s a good chance you also need your own web server. Shared hosting plans have a lot of problems completely separate from the IP address issue. Also, the speed and performance enhancement that can some from using a VPS instead of a shared host is likely to do more good for your SEO than a dedicated IP address alone.