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Are dedicated IP addresses still necessary?

January 26, 2016 2 Comments RSS Feed

The short answer: probably, but not for the reasons many still believe. Not any more, at least.

“Once upon a time” in eCommerce equals about 18 to 24 months. Once up a time, if your site needed a SSL certificate to process credit card transactions, you needed a dedicated IP address. Once upon a time, it was believed a dedicated IP address might make your site faster and rank higher.

And to this day, we sometimes still hear the same mantra. If you sell online, it’s just “better” to have a dedicated IP address. Never mind why, it’s just better. Because eCommerce, or something.

The myth

Skip the next paragraph if you already know the difference between a dedicated IP and a shared one.

An IP address is a virtual web address not entirely unlike the address of a house. Just as multiple people can share one house address, multiple entities can share the same IP address. By contrast, the owner of a dedicated IP address has exclusive use of and control over that address.

So let’s cut to the heart of it.

You don’t need a dedicated IP address to acquire or maintain SSL certificates. The arrival of SNI means a shared IP will carry the day.

Dedicated IPs won’t make your site faster.

Dedicated IPs also won’t give your site a higher ranking in Google search results.

Do they do anything?

The reality

SSL certificates, speed, and page rankings were once the main selling points of dedicated IPs, but those reasons’ expiration does not leave dedicated IPs without merit. Two, in fact, remain: 1) they help keep your site off mail servers’ blacklists, and 2) they make your store more user-friendly for an international audience.

First, it is advisable to use a dedicated IP if you plan to send emails from your domain because you avoid sharing your IP address with potential spammers. When a spamming domain ends up a mail server’s blacklist, that mail server won’t distinguish between your domain and the spammer’s domain. You and anyone else sharing an IP address with that spammer join that blacklist, meaning the mail server will block all incoming email from your domain. Therefore, those using dedicated IP addresses are in sole control of their reputation and need not concern themselves with the actions of other users, even if they share a server with other users.

If, however, you use Google Apps, Windows Apps, or other service to send your emails, then this first point does not apply to you. The reputation of your website’s IP address has no bearing on your ability to send email from the custom email address within Google apps, which is exactly why many administrators now prefer Google Apps.

Second, if you run a store, a dedicated IP can help you reach a wider international audience, some of whom use older browsers and other uncommon applications. Some of this older software does not support SNI, meaning it will only recognize your SSL certificate if you use a dedicated IP address.

Availability

It is indeed possible for you to use a dedicated IP address in a shared server environment. If you host with us and use Magento, then you already have a dedicated IP address because we include them with all shared Magento hosting plans. All other clients may purchase a dedicated IP address, though the price may vary according to the specifics of your plan.

Posted in: Nexcess
  • Joe St. Clair

    How doe the rise of services like Cloudflare and other CDNs play into the mix here. My customers almost never are touching our store directly.

    Also I cannot recommend enough using a service like Mailgun or Sendgrid to handle your transactional emails in Magento or WordPress etc… The cost is extreemly low and setup is easy. The benefits could warrant an entire blog post.

  • Jason Dobry

    Thank you for your question, Joe.

    We definitely encourage our clients to use a third-party mail service for greater reliability, speed, and the avoiding of blacklists. As for CloudFlare and other CDNs, if you use them in conjunction with such third-party mail services, then there’s little reason to favor dedicated IP addresses. This assertion, however, might vary somewhat according to the particulars of your specific CloudFlare configuration or CDN service.

    Also, thank you for suggesting that topic — we will definitely consider it!