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When you post a letter in the mail, you write a mailing address on the envelope so that it gets to the right place. But what happens when you want to reach a certain device connected to the Internet?

That’s where an IP address comes in.

If you’re Internet savvy you’re probably already familiar with an Internet Protocol (or IP) address. Internet Protocol identifies devices throughout the Internet, allowing them to be located through a number-based IP address individualized to each device.

But what happens when people start using more and more devices? And what if it looks like there won’t be enough IP addresses left to cover them all?

That’s the predicament the Internet is preparing for now, as it moves from Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) to Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) — expanding the number of available IP addresses as it does.

Let’s look at what IPv6 is all about and how this shift could affect your business.

What Is IPv6?

IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol Version 6, and it’s the next generation of Internet Protocol.

This newest version of Internet Protocol was actually created 25 years ago, in 1998, by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). That’s when the IETF realized then that the previous group of IP addresses — IPv4 — wasn’t going to last forever and that they needed to prepare for that inevitability.

With our use of the Internet increasing — not only thanks to the expanding usage of personal computers, but with the prevalence of devices like smartphones, tablets and Internet of Things as well — more IP addresses were necessary. And so IPv6 was created.

Why Should This Matter?

But why should you care about IPv6 at all?

First of all, IPv6 affects every device connected to the Internet. That means it affects you and your business too — promising to improve Internet performance and offer better security. But as the network switches over to IPv6 there may be some hiccups in your Internet service to watch out for.

Most devices and personal computers already support IPv6. Some routers and servers, though, haven’t been designed to make the move past IPv4. That means you may have to update equipment that is not IPv6-ready — or face potential privacy issues and/or degradation of your overall service.

And if you’re buying any new Internet-based equipment, you should also take the step of ensuring it’s compatible with IPv6. That way you can stay ready for the upgrade.

Which gets us to our next question — when will it happen?

When Can You Expect IPv6?

There’s actually no specific date when you can expect IPv4 to just stop working.

In fact, the move to IPv6 is a multi-year project, and in the meantime both IPv4 and IPv6 will work in tandem. But you’re likely to find that more and more Internet content will be specific to only IPv6 addresses — gradually making IPv4 obsolete.

It makes sense, then, to stay ready for IPv6 — so that you’re able to continue getting the most out of your Internet connection.

Want to know more? We’ll further explore the differences between IPv4 and IPv6 in our next blog post.

Find out more about the connectivity solutions Xplore Business offers Canadian businesses.