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Shared vs. Dedicated IP

Learning whether or not you need a dedicated IP address can save you money and potential problems down the road. Learn more about shared and dedicated ip addresses below.

What is a Shared IP Address?
Every web server is assigned an IP address. An IP address might look something like this: 248.57.240.83. The server's IP address generally stays the same all the time. Most websites on the internet are hosted on shared IP addresses, which means that one server with one IP address holds multiple domain names.

It used to be that every domain name had a different IP address, but with the rapid increase of domains needed and the finite number of IP addresses they began to share IPs. Now servers are able to determine by the domain entered in a user's browser which domain is being requested, even though it may send a request for an IP with hundreds of domains.

What is a Dedicated IP Address?
A dedicated IP address is set aside specifically for one domain, like in the old days. This means that if someone types in the numeric form of the IP address the same domain will always appear in the browser. Dedicated IP addresses are no longer the norm and it usually costs more to get one.

Who Needs a Dedicated IP Address?
Usually dedicated IP addresses are used for large web sites or secure e-commerce web sites.

Benefits of Having a Dedicated IP Address
Although, shared IP is usually easier and cheaper, there are a few advantages to having a dedicated IP address. Besides looking 'cool' for fellow webmasters, a dedicated IP is needed for three specific reasons:

Using your own Private SSL Certificate. This applies only if you need to have your own SSL certificate. SSL certificates are needed for accepting credit cards online. Web hosts that offer SSL usually offer a shared SSL certificate where users can share the web host's SSL. If you are using your web host's SSL you don't need a dedicated IP.

Anonymous FTP for some web hosts. Anonymous FTP is a method of sharing files on the Internet. Anonymous FTP means a computer will allow anyone using the FTP software access a special directory for files on its disk drive. This service is called Anonymous FTP because the user name used to sign in is "anonymous." To enable anonymous FTP certain web hosts require dedicated IP for the anonymous FTP function to work properly. Check with your web host if this is an issue for you.

Setting up your own Domain Name Server. A name server looks like this: ex. NS1.yoursite.com, NS2.yoursite.com. Since all web hosts provide you with their DNS servers, you don't need to have your own. But if you choose to have your own name server you will need to have a dedicated IP address to do so.

Do Search Engines Ban Shared IP Users?
Recent rumors suggested that search engines have blocked spam activity, by blocking ip addresses. Since shared IP address users are bundled together on the same IP address with many others, innocent sites would be banned from search engines if this were the case. The rumor, however, is false. Most web hosting services use an IP sharing environment and it would be unprofitable to search engines to penalize a site based on IP.

Using modern name-based technology a search engine is able to ban anything on a domain name instead of an entire IP neighborhood. So it continues to be search engine safe to host a site on a shared IP environment. (However, sharing a mail server with a spammer is still a bad idea. If you are concerned about being penalized for a fellow shared user's activity, get your own mail server.)

To sum up- serious webmasters who would like total control over their server and space, and e-commerce web sites who need their own SSL certificates are the best candidates for dedicated IP addresses. The rest of us can just happily coexist on the cheaper shared IP's.

Related Article: Whois Privacy Concerns >>