Help! Where’s my IP address?

Many people, it seems, do not know how to set or change the IP address on their computer. This is something usually done by the IT guy and then forgotten about.

Indeed, had I not been forced to learn due to my job, I would still remain in blissful ignorance that such a thing even existed, let alone any idea of its’ function; even now I have only the most rudimentary grasp.

For those as ignorant as I, Wikipedia describes it thus: ‘a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication.’

Rather succinct, I thought. To me, it is how the net recognises the device and devices recognise each other.

Each of our clients has a set of IP addresses inside their own Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN – I really am getting technical now). This means they can network with each other, printers, servers, etc.

This has worked very well for us and our clients and everyone has been happy…until now.

This method was fine for desktop computers that are going to sit permanently in the office.

The bells are tolling for the Desktop

But what happens when we change the way we work?

Who, for example, is buying desktop computers, these days? I would venture, not many; and for good reason. With a plethora of mobile devices – laptops, notebooks, tablets, phones – who needs a hefty tower and monitor.

As the cost of these devices go down and their technical capabilities increase (memory, processing, battery life, etc), their key feature – mobility – is enhanced dramatically. In a brilliant convergence of social need and technological development, they fit right in to the lifestyle of the modern agile worker.

Most of our newest clients have come to work armed with laptops and I do not see this changing back.

So, what about my IP address?

Well, now it’s something of a pain. Because, if your laptop is set up to work with a cable at home, you will have to change the IP address for it to work in the office. And then change it back again when you get home. And change it yet again when you go back to the office. And then…well, you get the picture.

You could work wirelessly by connecting to one of the many wireless access points in the building, but this is much less secure as it bypasses your VLAN and leaves your device open to the internet. Additionally, you would not then be on the same VLAN as your wired printer or back-up drive, so you would not have access to these devices.

Given the aforementioned developments, this situation seems anachronistic, so we have created a simple way round it. I use the term ‘we’ in the royal sense, since it was our IT guy (Tim) who lead us into the light.

We simply put a wireless router – or I might mean a wireless access point (please ask Tim) - in for each client that does not already have their own. Now any of their mobile devices will find their private wireless network automatically and device settings do not need to be changed.

You could argue we should have seen this coming and you would be right. I am talking to Tim much more now about what might be around the corner. It just shows how the technological age won’t let you relax. And as service-driven businesses, we have to stay sharp or lose out to the competition.

For now, I am happy we found a solution. Our clients can rest safely in the knowledge that they don’t need to know anything about their IP address, ever again. Just ask Tim.


Tim Lester is director at IT-Synergy and looks after the Colston Office Centre as well as several of our clients. Check out his website for more info.

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