Monday, December 1, 2008

What is IP? (Internet Protocol)

Dear Metro,

I am new to the technology world (just started a new job) and I was wondering if you could explain IP to me. I know it is an acronym, but I thought it stood for "intellectual property." But I think that in the context of technology, IP must have a different meaning.

So what is IP?

Lawrence S.

Dear Lawrence,

Congratulations on your new job and thank you for asking an easy one! (The holidays are coming and my brain is already thinking about my Christmas list!)

Simply put, IP is Internet Protocol, or the set of techniques used by many hosts for transmitting data over the Internet. (How we get the info from "point A" to "point B."Essentially it is broken into pieces and sent, then put back together at the end--at least this is the goal. Once in a while a packet will get lost, but that is a story for another time...

The current version of the Internet protocol is IPv4, (Internet Protocol Version 4--yes we tech people are tricky with those names aren't we!) which provides a 32-bit address system.

Internet protocol is considered a "best effort" system, meaning that no packet of information sent over it is assured to reach its destination in the same condition it was sent. We try our best. Often other protocols are used in tandem with the (IP) Internet protocol for data that must have extremely high fidelity--high quality. For example, if the data is highly important or highly confidential.

Every device (a computer, wireless device, or computer-like or containing device like printer) connected to a network, on a local area network (called a LAN) or the Internet, is given an Internet protocol...IP number. This is the IP address. This address is used to identify the device uniquely among all other devices connected to the extended network. IP addresses can be static (meaning they are assigned) or not, (meaning they change). This is determined by the Internet provider and system set-up.

Most of the time, the users of the systems, devices, etc. will not know the IP addresses that they interact with daily, and instead will give other names to the servers, devices and computers, to make it easy to keep straight.

I hope this helps - and keep those technology questions coming!

Metro - The Tech Answer Guy!

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