What is a static IP?

Man in home office on laptop
(Image credit: Unsplash / Yasmina H)

Most internet users know that when they connect they go online, their ISP will assign a public IP address to their device. 

It’s important to understand that usually your ISP will assign you a dynamic IP address - in other words. it can change at any time. Of course this may not happen for a while and you probably won’t notice even if it does. You might even welcome it, as changing your IP address may make it harder for websites and bad actors to track your online activities.

Still, you can also have a static IP address. This IP remains the same every time you connect your device, unless you choose to change it yourself. This can be either an IPV4 or IPV6 address

You may think this isn’t important but static IP’s have their uses. For instance, if you’re running a media server, having a fixed IP address means you only need to program other devices to connect to it once. This also holds true for other types of servers for activities like email or gaming. 

Static IPs are also excellent for using Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services like Skype, as it makes for a more reliable connection. 

Even if you’re not running your own mail provider or hosting an online voice chat, certain websites may also serve content based on your IP address using ‘geolocation’ data. Having a static IP means you’ll be able to access the same services consistently, as well as being plagued with ‘Captcha’ notifications to reassure them you aren’t a robot.

Static singledom 

Another huge advantage of having a static public IP address is you can be sure it’s not shared with anyone else. Whilst ISPs often reuse IP addresses for their clients, this means if someone else does something they shouldn’t like sending spam emails, you could be held responsible. This might mean you can’t connect to certain websites.

This is particularly a problem for people using a virtual private network, or VPN, as some providers will also use the same IP address for their clients, who may use the tool’s encrypted connection to disguise illegal activities like hacking and fraud. This is why it’s best to use a VPN provider with a dedicated IP address.  

Static set-up 

If you’re running a home or office network, setting a static IP for is simple and cost-free. You simply need to configure your network settings to reserve one for each of your devices .

Given the extra time and trouble to your ISP though, if you want a dedicated public static IP address you’ll need to contact them directly. Some will charge a one off fee for this, others may just increase your monthly subscription.

If your ISP doesn’t offer this service, you may be able to obtain a static IP via your VPN provider. Cyberghost, for example, offers static IPs for Canada, France, Germany, the UK or USA for an extra $5 per month.

Failing this, you can use a Dynamic DNS service provider such as No IP to have a dedicated ‘hostname’ which checks each time your public IP address changes it accordingly. This can be less expensive than setting up a static IP and has the same advantages. 

Static setbacks 

If you don’t plan to run a home server or have devices connect to your home network regularly, you probably don’t need to go to the trouble and expense of setting up a static IP address.

If, for instance, you want a static IP to benefit from websites using geolocation like Netflix, a VPN provider - even some free VPN providers - makes far more sense as you can usually connect to multiple servers in various countries. 

If you’re using static IPs within your own home or on a business server, adding new devices can also become a real burden. Instead of automatically connecting them to the server, which can dole them out a previously used IP you’d need to manually delete the connection records for the old device or assign a new IP in each instance. 

Having a static public IP also has privacy implications. If someone discovers your public IP address they can target your devices. This is less likely to happen if you use a dynamic IP, as your address would change and a hacker wouldn’t have any easy way to find out what your new one is.

If your ISP or VPN provider gets hacked or is subjected to a court order, it would be very easy to trace the static IP address to you, as you’d be the only person using it. As dynamic IP addresses are often changed between users, you’d have more “plausible denial” than if you had a fixed address.

Of course this works both ways. If a website or gaming server chooses to ban a particular IP address due to bad behavior, having a static IP means this won’t affect you - unless someone misuses your devices, in which case you will need to change your IP address to use those services again.

If you need to move your home or office address you may be able to keep your static IP address but this isn’t guaranteed, especially if your ISP doesn’t provide coverage at your new address. 

Static IP in summary 

Static IPs are most useful for small business or home users running an online service which needs to be remotely accessed. Whilst setting one up is fairly easy, there’s likely a cost attached. There are also privacy implications.

One way to save the expense of a static IP is through using DynamicDNS. Many VPN providers also offer static IP addresses for a small extra fee, with the added benefit of extra online privacy. Take some time to consider which option is right for you.

Nate Drake is a tech journalist specializing in cybersecurity and retro tech. He broke out from his cubicle at Apple 6 years ago and now spends his days sipping Earl Grey tea & writing elegant copy.