What is DHCP Server?

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By Vinay Khatri

Technology around us has changed the entire landscape of the world. The same can be said about the innovations that are dominating the corporate world. Every business organization now operates on a digital level which has consequently solved various issues related to connectivity. Corporate entities can now efficiently interact with potential customers and deliver services without having to worry about geographical restrictions.

This factor has been made possible with the introduction of the internet along with websites. To manage these websites efficiently, there is an immediate need for DHCP servers [Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol]. To gain more information about DHCP servers, let us strategically break the entire concept down into small parts.

What is DHCP Server?

DHCP is nothing but a network server that is responsible for allocating IP addresses, network parameters, and other default gateways to different client hardware. A DHCP server is heavily dependent on Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol to analyze and recognize queries raised by potential clients. The server can configure network parameters that lead to smooth communication for clients. Without this server, a network administrator would have to manage every client who is interested to join the particular network manually.

The entire process can prove to be very time-consuming when done manually. Therefore, a DHCP server saves valuable time and utilizes minimal resources. The entire process of communication becomes comparatively easier and straightforward by using a DHCP server. This factor stands true for large business organizations as there are multiple clients involved. A DHCP server allocates a diverse IP address which in turn can be changed when the customer’s lease expires for the specific IP address assigned.

Different Elements of a DHCP Server

  • DHCP Server: It is nothing but a server or a particular router that is in charge of holding information related to a specific network configuration.
  • Client: It is an individual or an entity that receives the configuration data from a server.
  • The pool of IP Address: It is a collection that has a set record of different IP addresses that can be allocated to new clients.
  • Relay Agent DHCP: If a business is in control of a single DHCP server for a wide range of LANs, then this relay agent [available in every network] will effectively delegate the request to the concerned server. This situation is initiated as the packets available do not possess the ability to transport from one router to another. Therefore, the presence of the relay agent allows a DHCP server to manage different requests originating in the listed networks.
  • Lease Time: An IP address can only be used for a specific time period by a client. Lease time indicates the time period for which a client can actively use an IP address. After the expiration of the lease period, the client will no longer be able to access and use the IP address unless a request for renewal is initiated.
  • Subnet Mask: The subnet mask consistently updates the host about the network system in which it is present.
  • Gateway Address: The gateway address is an initiation point. It is in charge of alerting the host and the users about the gateway through which the internet can be effectively accessed.

Understanding the Data Organized by a DHCP Server

The primary responsibility of a DHCP server is to assign organized data as per the policy appealed by a specific client. DHCP options or the network parameters appealed incorporate domain name, router, hostname, subnet mask, and domain server. When a client initially joins the server, the IP address is absent which is then effectively requested in the long run. Therefore, the concerned policy under DHCP is utilized in the early stages of registration for IP efficient communication.

If the defined policy is not incorporated to avail an IP address, then the concerned customer must utilize a pre-built IP address which is also known as a “Static IP Address”. The static IP address is then physically organized through the network by passing a unique command. There are primarily 3 distinct values that a DHCP server offers:

  1. The mobility factor of the concerned user is conveniently managed to perfection. When the network point is altered, the administrator has no requirement to identify the client manually.
  2. The number of tasks involved in the operation decreases significantly. As already mentioned, the administrator does not require to physically organize and register every individual client into the defined network system.
  3. Optimization of the IP address scheme is done with utmost ease. The IP addresses that are no longer being utilized by other clients can be effectively assigned to new customers.

Lease Time: DHCP Server

The IP addresses that are assigned by a particular DHCP server can only be used for a limited time period. This limited-time period is known as DHCP Lease. Upon the expiration of the lease period, a client will no longer be able to utilize the assigned IP address. Simultaneously, all retrospective communication must also be stopped in the long run. However, the option of renewal of the same IP address can be initiated by the ‘rent’ activation process through the lease renewal procedure.

To minimize the impact of the unavailability of the allocated DHCP IP address after the expiration of the lease time, it is highly recommended that customers initiate the renewal cycle when they reach the halfway stage of the lease time period. The renewal of the concerned IP address ensures allocation to respective hardware.

DHCP: Network Parameters

The DHCP network parameters [also known as DHCP options] can be effectively utilized to offer clients various information through the concerned network. This is considered to be a very conclusive methodology for the mail server, printer server, and time server. It is also used to delegate file servers along with defined file names while initiating a booting procedure by a particular client. This system is generally followed for Wi-Fi ingress points and IP mobile devices. It is also used in the automatic installation of clients and for PXE servers.

DHCP Server: When Should You Use a Router?

There is a multitude of listed business organizations that are presently using IPv4 routers through DHCP servers. This is primarily initiated by administrators that are in need to enhance the capabilities of a DHCP server. Following support options can be availed by the majority of routers:

  1. A client that uses a DHCP server can easily get hold of an IPv4 interface address from a DHCP upstream server.
  2. UDP DHCP client messages can be accessed through a DHCP server with complete ease.
  3. Different resources are utilized while functioning on a DHCP server through a specific router. Such packets are organized by various software systems. Hence, the utilization of additional resources does not make these routers efficient for companies that have more than 150 independent clients that have access to DHCP servers.
  4. DNS is not supported. No entry can be created to a DNS through a router DHCP server for a particular customer.
  5. Lacks the function of analyzing bindings as well as lease of a DHCP network across different routers. The administration team or individual responsible must log into the system manually in order to extract any form of information related to DHCP bindings.
  6. DHCP bindings cannot be availed at high proportions. This may create additional inconveniences if the DHCP gateway crashes.
  7. Organizing DHCP network parameters is more difficult to fulfill.
  8. IPAM or IP address management is not integrated with a DHCP router server. This prevents an individual from tracking specific IP addresses and activating forensic security measures.

The Unique Benefits of Availing a DHCP Server

Technology has helped business organizations to grow and develop significantly in the past decade. Such can also be said for DHCP servers as various businesses have benefitted tremendously by utilizing the service offered by them. However, in order to gain optimum performance throughout, it is highly recommended to use a centralized DHCP server rather than a DHCP router or switch.

This is true for networks that are in need of assistance from DHCP servers for both IPv4 and IPv6 routers. Initially, all the DHCP servers claim to support both the required type of routers such that both the systems can be utilized simultaneously. Let us now identify the benefits of using a DHCP server.

Pros of DHCP Servers

  1. An integrated DHCPv6 server that is correlated with IPAM for IPv6 routers offers complete transparency when it comes to the aspect of checking client nodes.
  2. Business organizations also need a similar functionality system for IPv4 routers that can be achieved easily. The space available in an IPv4 router may be limited and might tend to get congested with time. A user would want to monitor DHCP scopes to analyze the lease time left on the particular IP address.
  3. All DHCP servers offer administrators a management layout that allows them to organize the IP addresses of each client efficiently. A business organization will be in control and will be able to monitor all the activities that are being conducted on a specific network. The IP version available will not act as a hindrance in this case.
  4. High availability can be ensured by DHCP servers. If a DHCP server were to fail, then all the clients are allowed to retain their respective IP addresses. This evidently does not interrupt the end nodes present.
  5. Most companies prefer working with a DHCP server that has withstood the test of time. Most of the DHCP servers offer dynamic features and are able to fulfill the demands of large organizations.
  6. DHCP servers are user-friendly and allow an administrator to automatically delegate IP addresses.
  7. There is no need to manually configure and organize an IP address for clients. Therefore, the application and use of a DHCP server help an organization to save valuable time and resources down the line which adds up in the long run.
  8. No duplicate IP addresses are allocated to the clients. This helps in eliminating IP address conflicts among customers.
  9. New configurations can be obtained on an automatic basis when a network is changed. This factor greatly benefits mobile users.

Cons of DHCP Servers

No matter how efficient the DHCP technology is, it also has a few limitations that have been duly highlighted below:

  1. The server lacks an authentication program. This means that the servers do not possess a security mechanism that can verify the authenticity of a new client. Therefore, any new client can join freely. This factor can greatly compromise the security of a system. An organization operating on a DHCP server can lose multiple IP addresses by allocating them to unverified clients.
  2. When an organization is operating on a single DHCP server, the server can prove to be the primary point of failure. There is no effective backup present.

Business organizations that are in their initial phase of using IPv6 routers should look to import DHCP for IPv4 scope by putting them on a strong and dynamic infrastructure backed with an efficient DHCP server. The change in the system guarantees that a particular business wishes the DHCP operator for all the protocols. Business enterprises would prefer to capitalize on the DHCP server that is centralized in nature such that both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses are provided to the client’s hardware.

Final Overview

Hopefully, you have understood all the fundamentals related to a DHCP server. Be sure to get in touch with experts to gain more information about these servers. Make sure to conduct thorough research before jumping the gun and finalizing a DHCP server for your business.

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