DHCP vs. Static IP: Which Is Best for Trade Show Internet? 

Whether your trade show setup requires big screens with cool videos or just a couple laptops, you’re going to need internet access.

At Hyper Networks, we get asked all the time: do I need static or DHCP IP? The short answer is that DHCP is usually the best way to go for trade show internet needs. Here’s why, how IP addressing works, and when you might need static. 

What’s the difference between static and DHCP IP? 

An IP (internet protocol) address is a number that identifies each device on a network. With a static IP address, this unique number stays the same. With a DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) address, this number is automatically assigned to each device from a pool of available numbers on the network. Just like it sounds: static is permanent; dynamic is temporary. 

There’s a reason it’s called an address.

The internet works a lot like a postal system. Just like street addresses identify where mail should be delivered, IP addresses identify where data should be delivered. 

For example, let’s say you want to mail a letter. You’d write something like, “17 Cherry Tree Lane, Las Vegas, NV, 89123.” The address tells the post office that the letter’s destination is in the U.S.; the zip code identifies which city and state it’s in. (Fun fact: the post office largely ignores what you write as the city and state, only the humans looking at it really care. You could put “Disneyland, NV,” and as long as you have the right street address and zip, your letter would still arrive at its proper destination).

The letter then goes to the sorting center for that zip code. The sorting center narrows down the location by street address. It gets handed to your mail carrier and, voilà,“You’ve Got Mail!” 

You've Got Mail
You’ve Got Mail/Warner Bros. Photos

This whole scenario corresponds similarly to the way the internet looks up addresses. That single house on Cherry Tree Lane would have a single (static) IP Address. For example, click on or type 35.238.194.115 or  54.244.12.90 into a browser. Those are static addresses or IP addresses that don’t change. They resolve to hypernetworks.com and Disney.com respectively.

When do you need a static IP?

If you want an IP address that doesn’t change for people in the outside world to get to your equipment, you need a static IP address. That makes static necessary for equipment that needs to be managed remotely, like servers and VPN hardware. Companies generally use static IP at their data centers and core infrastructure. Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of what needs static IP.

When do you need a static IP?

DHCP is the most common way to access the internet.

DHCP basically works like this: every time a new device connects to a given network, the server assigns an address from available locations. When that device goes offline, the address becomes available again, but when it reconnects, the device may not be assigned the same IP address it had before. This process keeps things humming along quickly and efficiently, which is why it’s the way most of us access the internet.

Going back to our postal system metaphor, imagine 17 Cherry Tree Lane is actually an apartment building or a big commercial building. The mail goes to the mailroom (DHCP server). A very smart mail clerk (the router) then delivers each piece of mail to the correct party—wherever they are in the building. This way nobody’s office sits there empty and unused.

DHCP makes the most sense for trade shows and expos.

Expos and trade shows are, obviously, temporary setups. So it’s no surprise that temporary IP addressing, or dynamic, is the most efficient way for trade shows and expos to deliver the internet to attendees and exhibitors.

So, do you need a static IP or a DHCP IP address? The answer is simple. If no one on your tech team specifically told you that they require a static IP address, you probably don’t need one. In other words, if you just need to plug your computer, printer, smart device, etc., into the switch, you need DHCP.  

But don’t worry, it’s no problem if you order DHCP, and you later discover you do need a static IP address (or 24 static IP addresses). Usually those can easily be provisioned. And if you’ve chosen Hyper Networks for your trade show internet needs, we can get it switched over faster than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”