It may very well be one of the slowest migrations in history—and no, we’re talking about the Wildebeests of Africa—the transition from IPv4 (Internet protocol version 4, the underlying system that allows us to connect devices to the Web) to IPv6 (the next evolution of that same online identification and location system).
For years the Internet world has known that our old IP system (version 4) would eventually run out of available IP addresses (with some 4 billion IPs available), and it looks like doomsday has finally arrived. But while IPv6 stands waiting in the wings (and it has been waiting for many years now), the mast majority of Internet users—including much of the enterprise sector—are either unaware, uninterested, or unequipped to make the transition, and while it may not seem like a big deal to continue using the old IPv4 system, there are good reasons to consider preparing your business for the inevitable migration to IPv6.
As Stephane Bourque, President and CEO of Incognito Software Systems, explains, “Prepping your company’s backbone for IPv6 is essential to provide real data security, improve business to business communication, or expand into new markets.” The Internet is changing, and the more adaptable businesses are, the more uniquely positioned they’ll be to capitalize on the benefits of living in an IPv6 world.
While it’s true that enterprises don’t face the same sorts of planning pressures that service providers are currently mired in and there doesn’t seem to be any imminent incentive for companies to transition from IPv4 to IPv6 just yet, as Bourque writes, with several key emerging markets—notably India and China—already embracing IPv6, meaning like it or not, companies in Europe and North America, particularly those with eyes towards multi-national expansion, will have to embrace IPv6, and sooner rather than later.
As the rest of the world rapidly adopts this next generation Internet Protocol standard, why limit yourself by living in the past? In an effort to key pace with the changing technology scene, companies large and small should look seriously at starting the process of migrating from IPv4 to IPv6, if for no other reason than to keep doing business effectively and efficiently with companies that have already made the switch.
But let’s say the notion of enhanced global connectivity really isn’t your thing, there stands an even better reason to adopt IPv6, and that’s enhanced security. “IPv6 offers true security for enterprises by enforcing stronger firewalls, VPNs, and next-generation applications,” Bourque writes. “IPv6 can run end-to-end encryption with IPSec support, and it also supports more secure name resolution than IPv4, which makes name-based attacks more difficult.”
In an online world fraught with peril, businesses and service providers alike have seemed ill-equipped to combat the torrent of malicious intent aimed largely at stealing sensitive data. Much of the most devious attacks we face capitalize on vulnerabilities in the backbone of the Internet itself. If upgrades are available to that very backbone that could enhance security, why wouldn’t you want to implement them?
Finally, while I will admit that there is no immediate need to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6, there will come a day when the world leaves IPv4 behind (it has reached its maximum expansion point anyways), and those companies (and countries) that have neglected the transition will be faced with an expensive and time-consuming switch. Why not embrace the transition now, learn about how to exist in an IPv4/IPv6 duel world, and help mitigate the costs by spreading them out over time?
In his article, Bourque offers a small enterprise checklist to gauge your need to transition to IPv6.
- Existing or planned business in emerging markets
- Frequent mergers and acquisitions within the industry
- Partnerships with larger enterprise, government, or service providers
- Security concerns for customer data and use of firewalls or VPNs
- Ability to interact with next-generation apps and services
The point in all this, if you want to ensure a path for the future growth of your business, you need to begin migration towards IPv6, lest you one day find yourself on the outside of the Internet looking in.