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  • What is NAT

In the simplest terms, network address translation, or NAT, makes it possible for multiple devices - either computers or smart devices - to connect to the internet while simultaneously minimizing the number of IP address required. A NAT essentially serves as a middleman between a large-scale network and the general internet - but how exactly does a NAT implementation work?

To answer that question, we must first answer a few others.

What is an IP Address?
An internet protocol (IP) address serves as a unique identifier of your computer or internet-connected device. It's ultimately the network address for your device, and it makes it possible for your device to communicate with the internet. The modern IP address is an essential component of modern online computing.

When the process of assigning IP addresses was originally conceived, experts were under the impression that there were enough available addresses for every possible future need. As the internet exploded in popularity, and as networks became increasingly expansive, it quickly became evident that this assumption was false.

As such, data scientists needed a way to one, single IP address across multiple computers. The solution was to use NAT in conjunction with another device, such as a router, to do just that.

NAT Configurations
There are three different methods to use when configuring NAT for your home or organization.

  • Static: Often seen in web hosting, static NAT maps a private IP address to a public IP address, ultimately achieving one-to-one mapping.
  • Dynamic: This configuration maps a private IP address to a public IP address that is chosen from a pool of available addresses. Only a certain number of addresses can be assigned at any given time, and any attempt to assign more will result in dropped packets.
  • Port Address Translation (PAT): Sometimes known as NAT overload, this makes it possible to map hundreds or thousands of local, private IP addresses to one registered IP address. Each private IP address, or user, is assigned a different port number for traffic monitoring and traceability.

Now that we know the basics of NAT and the various configurations, it's time to look at the some of the biggest advantages and drawbacks.

Pros and Cons of NAT
Like most types of technology, NAT has its benefits and disadvantages. Some of its most notable advantages include:

  • Cost-effective: Since it doesn't require a new IP address for each device, NAT is a cost-effective solution for organizations and enterprises that have hundreds or thousands of users and devices.
  • Customizability: Not only can NAT be configured in multiple ways, but it features multiple utilities that are useful in load balancing, data backup, and more.
  • Security: When using NAT, the both the original source and the destination are effectively masked from the public, which offers additional data security and privacy.

Conversely, some disadvantages include:

  • Performance: NAT can result in various performance issues that could affect day-to-day productivity.
  • Software: Some third-party software solutions aren't compatible with NAT.
  • Troubleshooting: Issues with NAT can be difficult to diagnose and repair, even for skill professionals.

As you can see, NAT has viable uses for both home and business environments. While it's not for everyone, it does offer a lot of benefit to those who need it the most.

You may read more about NAT devices in Wikipedia: Network address translation.

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