Is a dedicated IP address really indispensable for best-possible website hosting? And are dedicated IPs really the ultimate when it comes to the reliable sending of emails? When searching for the answers online, it becomes clear that opinions on the matter diverge heavily.
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In the following, we’ll explain what a dedicated IP address is and how it differs from its shared counterpart. Subsequently, we’ll explore whether a dedicated IP is indispensable for modern Internet working, as is often claimed.
What’s an IP address?
Before we take a look at the differences between dedicated and shared addresses, we should clarify what an IP address is. An IP address is a uniquely identifiable device address in a computer network. IP stands for Internet Protocol, which has been used for decades to address and fragment data packages in digital networks and provides the basis for the Internet.
A typical IP address looks like the following (protocol versions 4 and 6 are currently in use):
Find out more about the function and structure of an IP address in our dedicated article on IP addresses.
What is a dedicated IP?
IP addresses are usually connected to a specific devices which then connect to a network. All services and applications running on the device can be operated via the same address. This is important for hosting service providers (specifically webservers/web spaces), newsletter providers for email marketing, etc. They can assign a unique address to a single user; in other words, the service receives a dedicated IP address.
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Even an IP address, which is assigned a unique device when dialing into a private network (LAN, WLAN) or a public network like the Internet, is generally a dedicated IP.
What is a shared IP?
The features of a shared IP can be easily deduced from the previous explainer on dedicated IP addresses. The main requirement is the same: a device in a network has a unique address. If, for example, the same system hosts a service for multiple users, the address is referred to as a shared IP address. Using the example of web hosting, an address would be assigned to multiple domains not just a single one. Newsletter subscription services or email more commonly use shared as opposed to dedicated IPs.
Shared versus dedicated IP: is a dedicated IP always the better choice?
Independent of whether you’re using a general web hosting or a specific CMS hosting (e.g. WordPress), a newsletter marketing solution, a cloud storage, or another rentable web service, many times you’ll receive an add-on offer to improve the quality of these services via a dedicated IP address. But is a dedicated IP really still an improvement over shared ones nowadays? In the following, we discuss the typical arguments made for using a dedicated IP vs. a shared IP.
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Security now takes a pressing role when it comes to modern web projects. Encryption of contents via a SSL certificate and its successor TLS has become a standard, ever since Google’s blogpost on “HTTPS as a ranking signal“ in 2014, which highlighted that certification had a positive effect on ranking.
In order to use the SSL/TLS certificate for your own website, a dedicated IP was required. With the release of the TLS extension SNI (Server Name Indication) websites of various domains can share a server on Port 443 dedicated to the SSL/TLS encryption. Although the extension was defined in 2003, modern browsers only began to support it by 2015. A dedicated IP address may occasionally still be a requirement for SSL/TLS due to the very slow implementation process of SNI. In reality, a dedicated IP is not necessary to convert a website to HTTPS.
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Performance of a website
Hosting providers offer a wide range of products – a welcome circumstance, but one that can cause confusion. Hosting a project on a dedicated server, i.e. a specially assigned server, is seen as a particularly powerful option. Specific hardware resources are being assigned to a single customer in this case. Because a dedicated server is coupled to a dedicated IP, the dedicated IP address is equaled to a more powerful and guaranteed performance.
Dedicated servers are always connected to a dedicated IP!
The performance of a website is not necessarily worse just because it is hosted on a shared server. Nowadays, providers tend to share performance resources among all parties involved in an efficient and skilled manner to enable promised capacities anytime, despite the shared IP address.
There’s been much debate whether a dedicated IP has advantages over a shared one when sending emails for years. If you regularly send multiple emails (for example, a newsletter or sales email), you may benefit from a dedicated mail server address. Capacities are always a given and the reputation of the IP, which has an influence on the transfer speed, is up to you.
But the argument for optimal resource capacities is rarely considered these days due to high performance possibilities of email servers these days. Unless you’re a power user with over 100,000 mails per year, sending emails via a shared IP is absolutely sufficient. In terms of reputation, the following applies:
- If you regularly (daily) send multiple messages (5,000+) with a low spam rating (below 0.1%), a dedicated IP address has a positive effect.
If a criterium does not apply, a dedicated IP may quickly pose a disadvantage compared to shared addresses in terms of reputation. Factors such as regular sending of mails and a low spam rating are central to the reputation score of the receiving servers.
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Search engine ranking (Google)
SEO is the core essence for the success of a website. It’s little surprising then that a comparison of shared and dedicated IP addresses is always considered when it comes to the impact on search engine ranking. But the IP address and the derived server location have little influence on Google’s ranking.
In 2006, Google administrator Matt Cutts clarified in a blog post that it didn’t matter whether a domain was assigned to a unique IP or not. A shared IP merely carries the risk that the domain could be falsely blacklisted by a Google bot (due to the content of a neighbor domain). This is incredibly rare and can be quickly remedied.
From an SEO perspective, the type of IP address is not really relevant. For a positive positioning among search engine results, factors such as quality or uniqueness of contents, keywords, or performance and usability of the web project are more important.
Conclusion: Dedicated IP is not a must-have
For many years, there have been plenty of reasons to use a dedicated IP address. Security aspects and the use of SSL/TLS have been central aspects advocating for the use of a dedicated IP. Because a secure transfer via HTTPS is now independent of the type of IP address, the dedicated IP has lost its value. The additional costs associated with it are better spent elsewhere, such as on the optimization of content and usability.
A dedicated IP address can be of advantage, for example, for sending large numbers of emails, where professional conduct is key to avoid a dedicated IP with a negative reputation. But irrespective of a dedicated server solution, which predicates the use of an obligatory dedicated IP address, there’s little reason not to use a shared IP or switch from a dedicated to a shared address.