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The challenges of enjoying accurate data from an IP geolocation database

Maintaining an IP geolocation database can prove to be challenging, with the increasing use of VPNs, but we have found a way to see through.

Maintaining an IP geolocation database can prove to be challenging. With the increasing use of VPNs, this task tends to be even more complicated. An IP geolocation database relies on the IP address used by a few users in a certain area. Therefore, it’s difficult to achieve 100% accuracy with IP geolocation data.

To add to that, IP geolocation moves between different physical or virtual devices and also between geographies. This makes it even more challenging to ensure the accuracy of the IP addresses in the database you’re using.

The accuracy of any IP geolocation database depends on its cost and access to data

Free vs paid databases

Most IP geolocation database providers offer two types of database plans, free and paid. While the free option offers the benefit of not having to pay for the database, the IP addresses on these databases tend to be less accurate and less up-to-date than their paid counterparts.

In contrast, paid IP databases provide relatively more accurate data and often provide dedicated support for users in terms of configuration and technical issues. When choosing a database, do your research and review your options, taking costs into account, before proceeding.

Downloadable databases vs API databases

Along with the free and paid plans of IP geolocation databases, service providers usually offer two different ways to access this data. 

You can either download the database itself or access it through an application programming interface, more commonly known as an API.

With the downloadable IP geolocation database, you won’t face any bandwidth restrictions as you already have access to the IP addresses in that database. However, a downloadable IP geolocation database may not be as updated, compared to an API database.

When you are accessing IP addresses through an API, even though you rely on access to the internet, your data will be constantly updated. Since third-party providers are equipped with the task of making the IP geolocation database available to you, you can focus on your product rather than building and maintaining the IP database.

Additionally, you may even face technical and configuration challenges downloading a database and setting it up, whereas, with an API database, you can request technical support because in most cases, API databases are an IP geolocation database on a paid plan.

The accuracy of IP addresses depends on the geolocation 

The accuracy of data provided by an IP geolocation database depends on the geolocation and it can only provide an approximate measure of geolocation accuracy. You can enjoy 90% accuracy at the country-level and at the regional or state-level, providers can usually ensure accuracy between 75%-85%.

You can typically expect accurate geolocation data from an IP geolocation database in big cities and metropolitan areas and expect these databases to work less successfully in smaller areas. If the geolocation is not in a major metropolitan area - for instance, a suburb - the IP database might point to the centre of a major metropolitan area instead of the suburb.

Therefore, you can expect location information to be accurate for broader areas but not so much at the city-level. If you don’t need user data at the city level, this might not be an issue for you at all. 

Also, the geolocation of a mobile device might be even more complicated as they obtain new IP addresses as they move. Therefore, you might not have as much success with the accuracy of the geolocation of specific mobile devices. 

The challenges of ensuring geolocation accuracy will keep changing

The sophistication of the technology behind IP geolocation is increasing along with the diversity of services built upon them. With the use of mobile devices increasing, the future of IP geolocation services will depend on our ability to accurately pinpoint the geolocation of a moving device.

It’s also relevant to keep in mind that apart from emerging technological challenges, we also face the question of the importance of data protection, information use, and information accumulation. We hope that the changes that come will positively impact both businesses and users alike.

7th February 2020

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