DHCP, or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, is a network protocol used on IP networks where a DHCP server dynamically assigns an IP address and other network configuration parameters to each device on the network, so they can communicate with other IP networks.
When connected to a network, a computer or device will request an IP address from the DHCP server, which has a pool of IP addresses available for this purpose. The server will then select an address (and possibly other settings such as the default gateway, DNS servers, and subnet mask) and assign it to that device for a set period of time, known as a lease period.
The implementation of DHCP can be crucial in large networks, saving network administrators a significant amount of time by not having to manually configure IP addresses for each individual device. It also helps prevent IP conflicts that can occur when two devices on the same network are assigned the same IP address.
However, DHCP isn’t without its drawbacks. Because IP addresses are assigned dynamically, a device’s IP address can change over time, which can cause issues with some applications. For these cases, a reservation can be set up in the DHCP server to always assign a specific IP address to a particular device based on its MAC address.