What is Domain Name System (In short DNS) and How it Works?: The Ultimate Guide

Domain Name System

Every website corresponds to its own unique IP address that identifies it among other over a billions of website presence online. Ideally, you could navigate the web merely with the IP address number instead of the domain names, but that just wouldn’t work practically! Now, you are probably wondering about how IP addresses and domains relate to each other. You can understand this if you could get to know all about Domain Name System(DNS). Without any further delay, let’s jump into it!

What is Domain Name System (DNS)?

DNS, short for Domain Name System, is an Internet system or Network server that converts alphabetic domain names to their associated numeric IP address. Web address (URL) when typed into a browser, DNS servers points to the IP address of the web server so that it directs to the particular website being hosted. To put it in another way, DNS directs web traffic by linking domain names with the actual web servers. As DNS is all about making connection in between Internet Protocol(IP) addresses and domain names, many people also call it the “Phone-book of the Internet”.

When you are registering a new domain, it is addressed to the particular IP number in the web server. Each of the website hosted in the internet possess its own unique IP address which corresponds to the servers. Thus, if you are looking for the particular web page in the internet, you can just type the name of the domain in the browser that points to the IP number of the web server and allows you to open and access that particular web page you are looking for. This is crucial because, although domain names are convenient for people to remember, computers or machines, access websites based on IP addresses.

When you type, www.agmwebhosting.com, your ISP views the DNS connected with the domain name, alters it into a machine readable IP address and routes your internet connection to the exact website.

Terms related to DNS

If you are reading this post, chances are great that you are willing to understand how DNS works. There are several record types, places to point things, innumerable IP addresses, and many other things that just don’t make sense and seem incompatible. Hopefully, this post will help you understand some of the term related to DNS Management and why using particular types are advantageous in certain circumstances.

  • Domain Registrar

A domain registrar is the service provider where internet domain names are purchased and domain registration is maintained and managed. And the registrar is where the domain name-servers are specified.

Most registrars include basic DNS service with the cost of domain registration. As a result, unless you add custom name-servers to the domain, the domain will use the registrar’s standard name-servers. It means in most of the cases, by default, DNS records are managed by the registrar.

  • Domain Registrar
  • NameServers 

‘Nameservers’ in most of the cases is used interchangeably with DNS servers and is a server on the internet specialized in handling queries regarding the location of a domain name’s various services. To be more precise, nameservers are simply computers running DNS software. When you register a domain, you can assign nameservers linking your domain’s information to the service, which in most cases are managed by the registrar or hosting company itself. If you want to migrate a registered domain, you also require to switch its nameservers and wait for the changes allowing once more propagation.

Nameserver

Most nameservers will come in sets of two or three and registrars will provide you plenty of spaces to enter several nameservers for your domain as shown above in case of AGM Web Company.

For your domain, it is important to have it’s nameservers indicated wherever you’re aiming for your site’s DNS records to manage. For the vast majority, their domain’s nameservers will point at their web host since majority of which have measures set up to necessarily set DNS records for their clients.

  • Zone Files

Your domain’s zone file contains all of its DNS-related settings such as mappings between your domain names, IP addresses and other resources organized in the form of text representations of resource records and are stored within your nameservers. Consider an example, each record connected with the domain enter the zone file in simple text format thereby simplifying its interpretation and migration procedure.

Zone files

When you make alteration to your DNS settings, it means you’re updating your zone file. Most changes usually take place through the graphical interface. However, most registrars and web hosts enable you to export copies of your zone file for backup purposes as well.

  • CName

CName doesn’t point users towards a specific IP address, but instead, towards other domain names. A record maps domain name servers directly to its corresponding IP addresses in case IP address are known and stable. Whereas a CName or Canonical Name record maps a name to another domain address rather than an IP address. Also, it should merely be used if there are no records on that particular name.

This means users can visit the website regardless of the address they enter on their navigation bar to view. In the example above, when a visitor types agmwebhosting.com, they are automatically redirected to the www.agmwebhosting.com, which in turn leads to a specific IP address if you configured an A record.

Technically, you are recommended to set up both domain name and sub domain variations of an URL to direct to the same website using A name records. However, you should always aim to use a default or ‘canonical’ domain name to avoid search engines penalizing you for duplicate content.

  • MX Record

MX(short for Mail Exchanger) records are certified and verified resource records in DNS that are used to help route email according to the domain owners preference. The MX record itself specifies a mail server responsible for delivering mail when this type of request is made to the domain. They differ from A Records and CNAMEs in the way that they also require a “preference” value as a part of their entry to prioritize delivery of the mail in case if multiple mail servers are available.

mx_record

The different priority number values pointed to different subdomains with two mail exchanger records is shown in the above image. These subdomains are also addressed at two different email servers that are designated to manipulate email. The MX record with less priority number (“0” in this case) is the first one must be attempted for email delivery. If the server could not succeed to handle this mail request, the next lower priority number is considered, which is 10 in above image.

Also, some email providers have only one MX record and some more than two as well. The number of MX entries that needs to be created depends largely on the mail provider and how they wish mail servers load to be manipulated.

  • Text-To-Live

TTL(short for Text-To-Live) is a setting that informs your nameservers how often it should update or shall stay in cache on systems requesting your DNS records. Take an instance, if you shift your A record and the TTL is set to two hours, it won’t start propagating till that time. Today’s registrars enable you to set your TTL settings to low limits such as two to five minutes merely. In practice it is not that necessary to set low TTL times for Record A and CName records but having this flexibility is handy for advanced users.

Conclusions

Managing your own DNS can be a tricky activity, especially if you haven’t ever considered what this means or if you haven’t ever seen a DNS record. I hope this post will make you aware of the fact how DNS actually works and why its record types is so essential to know from the time it is entered into the browser to time of handling your request in the nameservers.