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Networking - IP Addresses

This article covers what IP Addresses are, and how they relate to MacPractice and other services. Understanding what an IP address is will be very important when considering how to connect a MacPractice client to a MacPractice server.

Explanation

An IP address identifies a computer on a network. You can consider an IP address to be similar to the street address of a business or a home in real-world terms.

IP Addresses are made up of four numbers separated by periods. 255.255.255.255 is a fake example of an External IP address. 

There are two types of IP addresses, Internal (Local) and External (Global or Real-World).

An Internal IP address identifies a computer on an Internal Network, whereas an External IP identifies a computer across the Internet. Most computers on an Internal Network will have individual Internal IP addresses, but the Internal Network as a whole will share one External IP address.

To continue the analogy of the street address, the street address of an apartment complex is like an External IP address, indicating where in the world the network resides. An Internal IP address would be like the apartment number within the larger apartment complex, telling you where in the "building" your device resides.

Internal IP Addresses usually lead with the same digits if they are on the same network. One common example is 192.168.x.x. These leading digits may change with the router or network depending on a variety of factors.

When connecting a MacPractice Client to a MacPractice Server, you need the Server's Internal IP address so the client knows where on the network to look for the device.

Static and Dynamic IP Addresses

IP Addresses can be either static or dynamic.

A Dynamic Internal IP address is typically automatically assigned by your router or switch. Generally, dynamically assigned IP addresses of any machine on the Internal Network are subject to change when the router or network is reset, the operating system is updated, after a power outage, and so on.

An Internal Static IP address allows a device to maintain the same IP address on the network at all times. A Static Internal IP address is preferred for the MacPractice server as it will prevent the need to reset the server IP address in the client login settings by ensuring that this address does not change on the server. If you choose to, you can also assign Static Internal IP addresses to the other devices on your network.

Your office's External IP address is assigned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Unless your office has requested and paid for a Static External IP address through your ISP, this is most likely a Dynamic External IP address subject to change at any time. MacPractice abilities such as the iPad and iPhone interfaces and Patient Portal require Static External IP addresses to function reliably. Use of these services may require you to contact your ISP to have a Static External IP address assigned to your office.

Contact MacPractice Support to learn more and to ascertain whether you would need this sort of configuration for your office. Keep in mind that MacPractice Support is not able to configure your network, as this would require the aid of a network specialist that is familiar with the specific needs of your office.  

Dynamic DNS Configuration

MacPractice recommends using a static IP address with Patient Portal. If you choose not to use a static IP address, you will need to set up a dynamic DNS system that uses update software to keep your hostname's IP address up-to-date. A static IP purchased through your ISP will never change, whereas a dynamic DNS system periodically checks for a change to a dynamic IP address, then maps the new address to the hostname established with the dynamic DNS provider.

Dynamic DNS systems are subject to outages of the DNS provider, so you must familiarize yourself with the reporting procedures, scheduled outages, and terms of a dynamic DNS provider before selecting to use their service.

MacPractice cannot configure or support a dynamic DNS system, nor can we recommend a dynamic DNS provider. However, the basic steps for setting up such a system are similar amongst most dynamic DNS system configurations. If you are not comfortable with the instructions below, consult a networking professional or your dynamic DNS provider for assistance.

  1. First, create an account and hostname with a dynamic DNS provider of your choice.
  2. Next, install the provided dynamic DNS update software. This may be done on the MacPractice server. Consult the DNS provider for formal configuration instructions and options. For example, some DNS update providers may use an update feature located on your router instead of software on the server.
  3. When you contact MacPractice to configure the Patient Portal, provide the dynamic DNS hostname where the server can be reached.
  4. From here, configuration of a dynamic IP address is the same as a static IP address. This does not replace the steps for port forwarding. Verify that port 1234 is accessible at the provided address.
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