An IP address is divided into two parts: network and host parts. For example, an IP class A address consists of 8 bits identifying the network and 24 bits identifying the host. This is because the default subnet mask for a class A IP address is 8 bits long. (or, written in dotted decimal notation, 255.0.0.0). What does it mean? Well, like an IP address, a subnet mask also consists of 32 bits. Computers use it to determine the network part and the host part of an address. The 1s in the subnet mask represent a network part, the 0s a host part.
Computers works only with bits. The math used to determine a network range is binary AND.
Let’s say that we have the IP address of 10.0.0.1 with the default subnet mask of 8 bits (255.0.0.0).
First, we need to convert the IP address to binary:
IP address: 10.0.0.1 = 00001010.00000000.00000000.00000001
Subnet mask 255.0.0.0 = 11111111.00000000.00000000.0000000
Computers then use the AND operation to determine the network number:
The computer can then determine the size of the network. Only IP addresses that begins with 10 will be in the same network. So, in this case, the range of addresses in this network is 10.0.0.0 – 10.255.255.255.