Last week, the world celebrated IPv6 Day. If the event didn’t make it onto your calendar, you’re not alone. The event was meant as a “test flight” for IPv6, a successor to the current Internet address system (IP4) that -- if successful -- will help to ensure that the Internet doesn’t run out of addresses. Yet, if your company missed the opportunity to test, it’s not too late to test whether your Internet connections are IPv6-ready.

Make Every Day IPv6 Day

Recently we spoke with Martin Longo, CTO at Demandbase, about how companies can best prepare for IPv6. Lest you think that this is a lesson for IT security, you’d be mistaken. Chances are your company’s IT staff is well aware of the issue. Marketing departments, on the other hand, may not have been briefed on the issue. But they should be.

Demandbased published a white paper that outlines why marketers should care about the IPv6 switch. In it, Longo explains while “there won’t be one magic day when all Internet traffic suddenly converts over to IPv6,” IT and marketing departments should prepare for the performance and reliability issues that are likely to arise over time.

TIP: Hosting providers, networking equipment vendors, operating systems, Web servers, home-grown applications and databases will ALL need to convert to IPv6 for your organization to be truly IPv6 compatible."

Of course, not all apps will be affected by IPv6, but marketers may not realize just how many of the SaaS may rely on IP addresses for functionality. Here’s a quick exercise Longo suggests to help figure out the risk. Make a list of the types of functionality used. Anything that delivers analytics, geolocation-based or demographic information is probably using IP addresses to make it happen. Identify the applications pulling this data and start inquiring with vendors.

Everyone Needs a Plan

Inquiring is just half the battle, though. Sit down with IT and outline a plan. In the event that some third-party vendors are unprepared, what should you do to offset their inaccessibility? Figuring this out sooner, rather than later, can help ensure that you’re collecting data during any downtime. Without a plan, many of the apps may seem like they're working, but won’t be gathering any necessary data -- which you might not figure out until it’s too late.

Learning Opportunities

After addressing the risk and developing a plan, Longo recommends that companies take a moment to address the moment when IPv6 has become a reality. He writes:

Another crucial question businesses need to ask themselves is "At what point will we need to handle both IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously?" When is the moment when the percentage of IPv6 visitors becomes high enough that ignoring them will hurt your business?

If you’re looking for perspective on how others are preparing for IPv6, Demandbase also has some data that further reinforces the need for preparation. According to a survey conducted by FOCUS and commissioned by Demandbase, which sought to determine how prepared businesses are for the oncoming IPv6 transition, nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) are uncertain which of their company’s applications will be affected. As well, only 12% of all businesses have started planning for the transition with 6% saying they had no awareness of IPv6 at all.

IPv6: The Next-Best Marketing Tool

It's no surprise that we take IP addresses for granted. It was once thought impossible that we could run out. And with IPv6, trillions upon trillions of IP addresses will be available. To put that in context, Longo says that there will be enough IP addresses for every grain of sand to have multiple addresses. While becoming compliant for IPv6 may seem laborious, the alternative isn’t pretty.

But IPv6 has much more to offer than just volume. It will provide companies greater granularity when identifying the website traffic from various businesses, office locations and devices hitting websites. As a result, marketers will be able to gain better insight into their customers, deliver more personalized website experiences, and drive higher website conversion. When you think of it, IPv6 may be the marketing tool, companies have been waiting for.