Switching from IPv4 to IPv6

For many, the words IPv4 and IPv6 look exactly the same and have no meaning attached to them whatsoever. What they don’t realize is that they use them every day when sending an email and uploading a photo to their favorite social media website. A transition may not seem like a big deal, but will require IT support solutions.

IPv4 stands for Internet Protocol version 4. Every device that accesses the Internet, whether it be a computer or smart phone, is assigned a separate IP address. Transferring data from one computer to another requires the IP addresses of both sources or else it will not work. In essence, just like your home has an address that can receive mail, the device you use to access the Internet has an address it uses to receive data.
IPv6 is the next step in assigning addresses. Just like IPv4, it works by giving each device its own unique IP address. However, it has one major difference, namely that it uses 128-bit addresses, whereas IPv4 only utilizes 32-bit addresses. The bigger number basically means that more addresses will be available to be assigned.
The 32 bits IPv4 uses has a limited number of IP addresses to give out – around 4.29 billion, to be exact. Although it is indeed a huge number, almost all of them have already been assigned. This is where the switch to IPv6 comes in. IPv6’s use of 128 bits increases that number many times over, ensuring there are more than enough addresses to keep the Internet going for a very long time.
So why hasn’t everyone just switched over to IPv6 already? The reason is because they are two different protocols. Neither IPv4 nor IPv6 can deal directly with each other’s traffic. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is not an overnight switch and will require lots of time and money to resolve. Also, many older computers and operating systems are not compatible with IPv6.
What can be done now, though, is to use both IPv4 and IPv6 together. This process is called dual-stacking. This simply means that when you encounter an IPv4 address, your device will use IPv4 and likewise with IPv6. The problem with this approach is that all dual-stack nodes will require an IPv4 address when the whole point of the transition is that IPv4 addresses are running out.
Another alternative is to use a process called tunneling. This uses the existing IPv4 addresses to retrieve IPv6 data. This is a rather complicated process, suffice to say that IPv6 data is encapsulated into an IPv4 packet in order to reach its destination. The problem here is that this encapsulation will result in packet fragmentation. In other words, the original IPv6 data is stripped down to be converted to IPv4.
As one can imagine, what may sound simple, switching from IPv4 to IPv6, is actually a complicated and lengthy process. This process, however, is absolutely necessary for everyone, whether a single person or an entire company.