Using a VPN is a simple way to protect your identity online and secure your internet connection. One of the key ways in which VPNs protect your identity is by assigning you a new IP (Internet Protocol) address, typically one that’s shared by many users. Since there are dozens or hundreds of people using a single IP address, it’s nearly impossible to identify an individual user.
However, a shared IP address isn’t the best solution for every situation. In some cases, it’s better to have a dedicated IP address that’s assigned solely to you. In this article, we’ll explain what dedicated IP addresses are, take a closer look at what they do, and help you decide if you need one for your website.
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Dedicated vs. shared IP addresses
Your IP address is a unique identifier assigned to every internet-connected device. When you connect to a website, it reads your IP address and uses the information it contains to find out your zip code and track you across the internet.
VPNs put a stop to this online information-gathering and tracking by giving you a new IP address that’s not related to your location or device. This makes it impossible for websites to find out where you live.
By default, most VPNs assign an IP address that’s shared by many users. This can help anonymize your browsing activity because you’re just one of dozens of people using that IP address at any given time. Importantly, this means websites can’t track you across the internet.
What you can’t control is who shares that IP address with you. Sometimes, you may be sharing it with hackers and cybercriminals. As a result, the IP address could trigger CAPTCHA challenges or even be blacklisted from certain sites.
In addition, many sites will block an IP address if they detect that multiple people are using it. Even if there’s no nefarious activity happening on your IP address, you may find that you’re unable to watch shows on Netflix or access sites with sensitive security measures. Your browsing may be anonymous, but it suddenly got a lot harder.
That’s where dedicated IP addresses come in. Your VPN still assigns a new IP address when you connect to the internet, but the address will exclusively be used by you.
It’s similar to simply logging onto the web without a VPN. However, since you are using a VPN, your connection is secure and your dedicated IP address doesn’t provide information about your location.
Advantages of a dedicated IP address
There are several advantages to using a dedicated IP address – also known as a personal IP address – to surf the web.
First, your personal IP address is likely to have a much better online reputation than an IP address that’s shared. As you move around the web, you’re less likely to be presented with annoying security challenges or have trouble accessing specific websites.
Using a dedicated IP address can also speed up your email, and prevent your sent messages ending up in someone’s spam folder. Email providers scrutinize IP addresses just like websites do. If one user on a shared IP address is sending spam, it’s more likely that an email service will flag emails as spam that come from others using that same IP address. Since your dedicated IP address has never been associated with spam, your emails will sail through the system.
A dedicated IP address is also important if you need remote access to your office or to smart home devices such as a security system. If you have a dedicated IP address, you can configure a firewall that whitelists your address and blocks all others, to prevent hackers from gaining access. When you log into a secure network with a shared IP address, you run the risk of allowing other users with that IP address through your firewall.
Disadvantages of a dedicated IP address
The primary disadvantage of using a dedicated IP address is that you lose anonymity when browsing the web. Your dedicated IP address is consistent from session to session. Since you’re the only one using that IP address, websites can use it to track you across the web. If your primary goal is to keep your browsing activity private, a shared IP address offers more anonymity.
Another drawback to using a dedicated IP address is that they cost more than simply using the shared IP address that most VPNs provide.
How much does a dedicated IP address cost?
Dedicated IP addresses aren’t free, but they’re not overly expensive. You can typically purchase a dedicated IP from your VPN provider for $1-10 per month.
If you plan to connect to a work network, you may need a business VPN rather than a personal VPN. These are typically more expensive, and plans can run to more than $100 per month. Check with your employer to make sure a VPN is compatible with the company’s network before signing up for a service.
A dedicated IP address can make it easier to browse the web securely and prevent you from being challenged or blocked online. However, unlike shared IP addresses, dedicated IP addresses don’t anonymize your browsing activity.
Dedicated IP addresses are most useful if you prefer speed and ease of access online, and are essential if you want to connect remotely to a home or work network. In this case, a dedicated IP address offers significantly greater security than a shared IP address.
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Michael Graw is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Bellingham, Washington. His interests span a wide range from business technology to finance to creative media, with a focus on new technology and emerging trends. Michael's work has been published in TechRadar, Tom's Guide, Business Insider, Fast Company, Salon, and Harvard Business Review.