What Is IPv6 and How Can You Make Sure Your Site Is IPv6 Ready?

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If you’ve done any reading about websites and the Internet, you’ve probably heard the term IPv6 used. You might have even seen it while adjusting your router’s settings. Even though you’re aware of the term, you may not know what it means.

Of course, you may never have heard about IPv6 either. Whether you have or not, IPv6 is important to the Internet, especially as we move forward. If you have a website, it’s especially important that you familiarize yourself with IPv6.

What Is IPv6?

Before we get into explaining what IPv6 is and how it differs from IPv4, let’s take a look at what an IP address is. Whenever you type the address of a website into your browser, this name goes through a Domain Name Server, which in turn gives your browser the IP address of the server. These addresses are how computers communicate with each other across the Internet.

For years, IP addresses used a 32-bit address space with the following format: 123.45.67.89. This is the maximum number of digits an IPv4 address can use. This means that you’re limited to IP addresses that fall between between 000.000.000.000 and 255.255.255.255.

It’s actually slightly more complicated than that, as large blocks of address are reserved for special use cases, but you get the idea.

There are a lot of servers out there, and many websites you encounter use more than one IP address. In fact, most of them use more than one IP address.

IPv6 to the Rescue

Unlike IPv4 and its 32-bit address space, IPv6 uses a 128-bit address space. Because these IP addresses are longer, they won’t be exhausted, which is already a problem. This also means that they look slightly less friendly.

An IPv6 address uses eight groups of four digits. Furthermore, these are hexadecimal, which allows for even more variation. An example IPv6 address looks like 2001:0db8:0000:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.

How Do You Make Sure Your Site Is IPv6 Ready?

You don’t simply replace IPv4 with IPv6. Instead, the two will run side-by-side for some time. Adding IPv6 support to your website can be done alongside your IPv4 configuration.

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First, you’ll need to configure your server to listen to IPv6 addresses. This varies by server software, so you’ll need to consult your documentation. For example, on Nginx, you just add the following line to your server config file:

The [::]code represents IPv6 addresses.

Next, you’ll need to add an AAAA record for your website, as well as your bare domain. This is the IPv6 version of the A record, which you likely configured via your domain registrar when you set up your website.

You’ll also need to make sure your DNS servers have IPv6 addresses. Otherwise, even though your site will serve traffic over IPv6, you’ll still need IPv4 to actually point your users there. You can check this using the whois command followed by your domain name.

Things are slightly more complex if you run a mail server as well. You’ll need to add an IPv6 address for your mail servers. If you list IPv4 servers in your SPF record for outgoing mail, you’ll need to list the IPv6 addresses as well.

This should at least give you an idea of where to start in adding IPv6 to your website.

Conclusion

While the numbers may look a little more complex than the older IPv6 IP addresses, IPv6 isn’t really all that complicated. Considering the trouble it can save you later on, you’d be better off setting up your site for IPv6 now rather than wait until you have to.

If you’re running your website from a home server, you’ll want to make sure you properly secure it. We can help you out there. Just check out our guide to securing your home Linux server.

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