If you’ve been looking into upgrading any of your IT equipment lately, you may have heard talk of items being ‘IPv6 Ready’. But what does that mean? And, more importantly, how will it affect you moving forward?

As the need for ubiquitous connectivity increases, the requirement arises for more and more unique IP addresses so that each individual device amongst the ever-growing throng can be identified. Home and business users now have a multitude of IP-enabled devices that need to be connected: routers, wireless LAN devices, PCs and laptops, printers, games consoles, mobile telephones, music servers and internet/on-demand TVs are all now commonplace.

Similar to the old traditional telephone network, as more telephones were added, the need to increase the range of telephone numbers meant we grew from numbers with four digits to numbers with eleven or more. IP addresses are growing in a similar way and the need to improve the addressing system is one of the drivers towards IPv6 in order to identify each device.

The ‘old’ system, IPv4, provided 3.5 billion Internet addresses, which seemed plenty back when the system was created in 1981. However we’re now almost at capacity and IPv6 is being brought in to solve the issue – unlike its forerunner, it uses 128-bit addressing hence creating space for about 340 trillion new networked devices.

It will not only add more addresses but it will also speed up data transmission by freeing up the router to perform more efficient connections. IPv6 reduces the size of routing tables and makes routing more efficient and hierarchical, is more efficient at packet processing and offers directed data flows.

IPv6 has also been built with security as a paramount consideration. It will encrypt traffic and will check packet integrity to provide VPN-like protection for standard internet traffic. It is also designed with mobility in mind, allowing users to roam freely between fixed, wireless, mobile, terrestrial, satellite or any other IPv6 network.

Its superior design means mobile nodes can now communicate location changes and enable optimal routing. IPv6 avoids IPv4’s triangular routing approach, so a user can move from location to location without the need for message forwarding.

So far, a positive move. However, take up is very slow. As of September 2013, the percentage of users reaching Google services over IPv6 surpassed just 2% for the first time. Most devices today are not compatible with IPv6 and the two standards are not designed to be inter-operable.

IPv6 will run concurrently with IPv4 so there is no need to panic and worry about when current devices will become obsolete. There will probably be a necessity for software updates to client devices to ensure they’re able to work effectively.

Businesses and home-users alike need to be aware that IPv6 is here to ensure that when they are upgrading their IT equipment, it supports the new protocol. However, IPv4 is not going to be dropped any time soon so, when you do feel it’s time to upgrade any equipment you have, just look out for equipment that is ‘IPv6 Ready’ to ensure that you’re future proofed and get the best performance possible.