Public vs Private Networks [Differences and Uses]

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Oct 12, 2022

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With more and more people working remotely, it’s now more important than ever to understand the type of network you can come across, whether you’re connecting online or looking to build a network for your business.

In this article, we dive into the specifics of public vs private networks and explain the difference between public and private IP addresses.

What Is a Public Network?

A public network is an unrestricted network that’s accessible to the general public– like the Internet.

Because anyone can access this network, it comes with certain security risks. The data over this type of open connection is often unencrypted, which makes it an enticing target for hackers.

What’s more, it takes almost no hacking skills to monitor or hijack communication over a public network, especially on unassuming users who don’t take any precautions–  which is one of the many reasons why you should consider getting a VPN.

What Is a Private Network?

A private network is a network that uses a private space and can only be accessed by approved devices.

Think of it as a members-only club.

An example of a private network is a home or an office network. These are configured in a way that only lets certain users in. They’re purpose-built and might even restrict outbound connections

Differences Between Public and Private IP Addresses

Like a private network vs a public network, IP addresses– or what we use to connect to these networks– can also be private and public.

An IP address is essentially your connected device’s ID. It’s a series of numbers that identifies your device and makes it easy to track what information it’s requesting, sending, and receiving. 

When it comes to visibility and access, whether an IP address is private or public depends on whether it’s on a private or public network.

Your public (or external) IP address is assigned to your router by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). It allows you to connect to the internet from inside your network to outside. It’s essentially the P.O. box to your home address and anyone on the Internet can see it.

This address can be traced back to your ISP, which can reveal your geographical location. If you’re looking to hide your IP, you should consider getting a good VPN. Here are our top VPN picks for 2022.

Your private (or internal) IP address is the one your network router assigns to your device. Every device that’s connected to the same internal network has one private IP address, which allows these devices to talk to each other within that network, without connecting to the entire Internet.

These IP addresses are also traceable, but only by devices on the local network– they’re not visible to outsiders.

Number-wise, the main difference between a private and a public IP address is that the former is reusable. They can be used on different private networks without confusion or consequences because they’re reserved for private networks only.

Public IP addresses have to be unique.

You may be interested in: How to hide your IP address.

Private vs Public Network

From a technical standpoint, there isn’t much to compare between a public network vs a private network. They use the same infrastructure and hardware.

Apart from that, they’re different in every other aspect, including:

File Sharing and Visibility

Unlike public networks, private networks typically don’t connect to the Internet. They simply allow a set of devices to talk to each other and share files and printers. 

Private networks can indirectly connect to the Internet via NAT (Network Address Translation), but their addresses do not appear on the public network. 

Configuration and Setup

When it comes to setting up a public network vs private networks, the latter is more complicated and time-consuming to figure out, especially if the devices connected to it need to access the internet.

To create a secure private network, you’ll need to set up who can connect to it and use tools like firewalls, and put in place special protection for web servers.

A private network may even end up requiring extra hardware, which can rack up construction costs.

Looking to protect your device from malware? See our top picks for the best antivirus software for 2022.

IP Addressing

Public IP addresses can be seen in public networks and private IPs in private networks only. 

Since private IP addresses are reusable, there’s a small set range of possible IP addresses that can be private, unlike public addresses which can be any combination of numbers that’s not within a private IP address.

Use Cases

Whether you need a public or private network depends on its purpose.

Public networks are convenient. They let you connect to the Internet at airports, hotels, libraries, and coffee shops.

Private networks are necessary in manufacturing, healthcare, and education where there is a need for good coverage, reliability, and security that cannot be offered by public networks, Wi-Fi, or cellular connections.

Read more on IP addresses here.

Bottom Line

Although private and public networks rarely differ in terms of infrastructure and hardware, there are crucial differences between a private vs public network. Public networks can be accessed by anyone; unlike private networks that only offer access to certain devices.

FAQs.


Is your school network public or private?

School networks are usually private and limit access to students and staff.

Should my home computer be set to a public or private network?

If you’re a Windows user, your computer should be set to “Public network” whenever you’re trying to connect to public Wi-Fi. You can set your network to private at home so you can use your PC for file and printer sharing.

What is the difference between public vs private networks?

The difference between a public and private network comes down to who can access it; Public networks are accessible to the general public, unlike private networks which can only be accessed by certain devices and users.

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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