Addressing and Naming Schemes in a Network

By Jacob Andrew

A good addressing scheme helps you manage growth as well as complexity.
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Businesses use a more complicated network infrastructure than homes or small offices. Multiple physical offices, dozens of employees and varying requirements necessitate careful administration of computer resources. To help manage these resources throughout a company’s, good IT managers implement a comprehensive address and naming scheme.

Importance of Addressing and Naming Schemes

It is important to develop addressing and naming schemes in any network that anticipates growth. Having an inadequate amount of server or host IP addresses, for example, can result in a costly reconfiguration of the network. A comprehensive naming scheme facilitates easier asset control measures, as well as making maintenance of connected devices easier.

IP Addresses Versus Names

The IP address is a series of four numbers between 0 and 255, separated by decimal points. These numbers are used by routers to located different devices, such as servers, printers or other computers. To simplify the search for these devices, device may also receive a name. These names vary, from individual names given to computers through Windows’ system properties, to host names assigned to a router. Though sometime arbitrary, these names can be assigned as part of a domain name system server, which binds the name to an IP address. Other such name systems include Microsoft’s Windows Internet Naming Service, but such systems are typically designed to be compatible with DNS.

Hosts Versus Networks

The first step to creating a scheme involves separating hosts from networks. Networks are groups of computers that can speak directly to each other, and the hosts are the devices within that network. A tool called a subnet mask is used to divide these networks into groups of hosts. Depending on the type of mask, however, a network can only accommodate so many hosts. The network IP of with a subnet mask of can only have 254 total devices – including laptops, smartphones, network-attached printers, and networking equipment – connected to it. If your organization has a single network requiring more hosts, either now or in the future, then you must use a different addressing scheme. The network of with a subnet mask of can accommodate over 1.6 million users. But it cannot be divided into further networks within the private IP address space, without using additional technology such as Variable-Length Subnet Masking.

Good and Bad Naming Schemes

Small organization can choose a random, common-sense naming scheme. Many network administrators then name different devices according to a theme. Servers, for example, may be named after Greek gods or goddesses, while network equipment might be named after famous NFL quarterbacks. Such naming schemes have more to do with tradition than planning, but such naming scheme help IT staff quickly identify certain types of items in a network. In the aforementioned example, you or an IT worker could quickly know that “” is a piece of network equipment, while “” is a server. This form of naming scheme only works for devices that make the minority of network presence.

Picking Good Names

The ideal naming scheme for desktops and individual devices, however, should provide useful information at a glance. It’s important to avoid naming individual hosts according to the employee or the office locations, as this information changes frequently over time, and requires significant maintenance. Ideal information may include year of deployment, major division within the company and operating system. Names must be relatively short in order to fit within WINS and other naming conventions. Windows workstations, for example, provide a maximum of 15 characters for the host name.