It is the biggest change since the inception of the internet. There is a global shortage of IPv4 addresses, and the world is getting ready for IPv6. In this post I’ll de-mystify the IP hype and explain how to ready your business for the changeover, because if you don’t prepare, your hardware won’t connect to the internet.
What is IP?
IP, or Internet Protocol, is the technical format of packets, and the addressing scheme for computers to communicate over a network.
An IP address is a numerical label assigned to a device that connects to a network. You can compare it to the postal system – it allows you to address a package and drop it into the system.
What is IPv4?
As a bit of background, IPv4 was the fourth version in the development of internet protocol but was the first protocol to be widely deployed.
It provides a logical connection between network devices by providing identification for each device.
Every computer, smartphone, printer, etc has its own address. There are many ways to configure an IPv4 address, but most follow a fairly simple sequence of numbers separated by dots known as quad-dotted notation, e.g. 192.0.2.235.
Why are we running out?
When IPv4 was deployed 30 something years ago, the creators assumed that the 4.2 billion addresses would cover every single eventuality, but September 2012 saw the distribution of the last blocks of IPv4 address space from the available pool.
Even though people were always aware that IPv4 had a finite amount of addresses available, now more than ever there is pressure on the various networks to support IPv6. When these addresses run out, websites with IPv4 addresses will not be accessible.
What is IPv6?
IPv6 was introduced in 1996 (IPv5 was an experiment). IPv6 has provided a massive increase in the number of addresses available due to the move to a 128-bit addressing system.
This change from the existing 32-bit system means that IPv6 addresses look very different e.g 2001:cdba:0000:0000:0000:0000:3257:9652.
The standard was designed to support a mass adoption of IPv6-enabled devices – from household appliances to cars (the ‘Internet of Things') – and in total provides roughly 480,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses for each of the world’s seven billion inhabitants.
IPv6 remains unsupported on many networks, however, even though it has been around for over 15 years. That needs to change, otherwise we will end up with a very fragmented internet.
Are you ready?
To a non-technical business owner, IPv6 may be a confusing and an unknown quantity.
You will probably want to know all the hows and whys after reading this article, but fear not – your ISP may already offer IPv6 connectivity, and you may already be operating hardware and software that is compatible with IPv6.
If so, using IPv6 will be as simple as flipping a switch.
In other cases you may need to invest some time and resources in IPv6 deployment and, if so, here is a quick checklist which will help you.
- Appoint a project manager – If you are not a techie it’s probably best to talk to an IT consultant.
- Talk to your Internet Service Provider – It will have plans and information about IPv6.
- Identify the network components that will need to be changed or upgraded – Lots of IT consultants will be happy to check your equipment to let you know if there is any upgrade needed. You can also contact your hardware providers to ask what components are IPv6-ready to shorten this process.
- Determine costs of new hardware and software – Budgeting for the IPv6 deployment is essential.
- Draft a project plan and start implementation – Work with consultants or your IT manager to come up with a plan that will suit you.
Further information on the switchover to IPv6 can be found here.