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Understanding basic networking

Understanding networking is essential for ensuring that your hardware and Lightspeed Restaurant work as intended. Devices like printers and payment terminals use a local area network to communicate with one another and your Restaurant POS. In this article, we'll dive into networking basics so you can best understand how your devices connect and interact.

What is a network?

A local area network (LAN) refers to the shared connection between devices within a physical location, such as your restaurant. In order to communicate important messages back and forth, your devices need to be on the same local area network with unique IP addresses to help them find each other.

What is an IP address?

An IP address is a string of characters that are used to identify a device on a network. Just as mailing was made possible by implementing a system where households could be identified by a civic address, a similar process has been created with the Internet called Internet Protocol (IP). It's common for IP addresses to appear as four sets of numbers separated by periods, (e.g., “192.168.0.XXX,”) with the last three digits changing based on the device. When setting up new devices in Lightspeed Restaurant, such as LAN receipt printers, you may need your device’s IP address to connect it to your account. 

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What is the difference between the Internet and a local network?

Even though internet and local network connections both allow electronic devices to communicate, there are important differences between them. "Local network" refers to the connection between your devices within your establishment, but "the Internet" refers to the connection between your router and the outside world. The Internet is also a network, but your local network is what connects your devices to your router and to each other.

To illustrate: when your iPad sends a receipt to the printer, it uses your local network to communicate with the device. However, when the Lightspeed Restaurant app downloads your Back Office configuration, it uses the Internet to retrieve your settings from the cloud.

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What's the difference between a public and private IP address?

Your modem receives a public IP address that connects you to the Internet. You can find your public IP by searching "What's my IP?" in any web browser. You'll notice your public IP address is not the same as the IP address on your local area network. Your public IP address is used to connect you beyond your local network, which is why an iPad on the wrong local network can access the Internet but cannot find a printer on a different local network. All devices in your establishment must be on the same local network to communicate with each other. Since Lightspeed Restaurant relies on knowing the devices' IP addresses to send them messages or commands, you'll generally want these device IP addresses to remain unchanged. You can enable fixed local IPs for your devices through DHCP reservations.

What are DHCP Reservations and a fixed IP address?

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is a network management mechanism that automatically configures devices and assigns them IP addresses. Before DHCP,  configuring a new device so that it could communicate with other devices on your network required a networking expert on-site. Since IP Addresses assigned through DHCP are automatic, these IP Addresses may change in some specific instances, such as a power or network outage.

DHCP reservation is a tool that all modern routers have that lets you reserve a fixed local IP address for specific devices. With DHCP reservation, the DHCP lease never expires and you don't need to update the device's IP address in Lightspeed. Follow our guide on Enabling DHCP for more information on how to set up a fixed IP for your devices.

What are static IP addresses?

A static IP address refers to an IP address that's assigned to a device by the network administrator and does not change. We do not recommend setting a static IP on some devices, since it may cause issues if your Internet or device goes down and then comes back online. Instead, we recommend assigning a fixed IP address through DHCP reservation.

If your internet service provider provides or leases you the router that's used for your Lightspeed devices, they might try to convince you to pay a monthly fee to give all your devices a static IP address. However, the static IP they provide is actually a public IP address, which is not beneficial for devices like printers. Instead, these local devices require a local IP address to connect with other devices on your network. You can assign a fixed IP address to your devices through DHCP reservation.

When should I use a static IP or DHCP reservation?

Although it is possible to prevent IP addresses from changing using a static IP, it's typically not recommended for some devices because of a commonly-occurring issue where, for instance, if a printer momentarily loses connection, a dynamic device may connect to your network and be assigned the same IP address that's been manually selected for the printer. Since the IP Address that your printer needs is currently assigned elsewhere, your printer will be unable to use a different IP address (such as those assigned through DHCP) and connect to your network.

You may use a static IP address for devices such as payment terminals, where it's important that the device's IP address remains the same and switching between DHCP and Static mode are relatively easy. However, we still recommend you pair this with a DHCP reservation to prevent another device from taking that same IP address.

To summarize the above:

❌ Do not put devices like printers in static mode and assign a static IP.
✅ Keep devices in dynamic mode and assign a fixed IP through DHCP reservation.

What can Lightspeed help with in regard to networking and hardware?

If your hardware suddenly stops working, it may be related to networking issues. Our Support team receives training for supported networking products that we can remotely access. Nevertheless, some hardware connectivity issues can, unfortunately, stem from factors beyond our reach.

While we may not be able to assist with every problem, Lightspeed Support will make its best effort to determine if your issue is something that we can help with or if it’s beyond our scope.

Our Support team can help with:

  • Troubleshooting network connectivity for supported hardware devices
  • Troubleshooting Unify and IgniteNet connectivity issues.
  • Troubleshooting connectivity issues between Lightspeed and payment terminals.

Our Support team cannot help with:

  • Physically broken hardware.
  • Any issues (networking or otherwise) for hardware not supported by Lightspeed.
  • Connectivity issues originating from your Internet service provider.

Another common issue may arise from your devices being unable to connect to Lightspeed because your router is preventing them from accessing your account. If the router was purchased or leased from your internet service provider (ISP), your ISP Support agents are usually able to remotely adjust these settings to resolve the issue. If you bought the device yourself, you could contact the manufacturer for more information on troubleshooting router settings.

If your network was set up by a third party and the connectivity issue comes from one of your network devices, you might need to contact the installation company or internet service provider (ISP). Your ISP may have configured your devices specifically for your establishment and we do not have access to these specifications.

 

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