New User Tutorial: What is DNS?
The Domain Name System (DNS) is a powerful tool the Internet uses to know precisely where your site is located to serve it the fastest way possible. It is used to make your site load faster and more efficiently. If you want to own a successful website, properly configured DNS is necessary to ensure the satisfaction and security of your site and your users.
DNS may be a complicated process, but it is also straightforward and understandable through some basic steps on how it works and what DNS does for you and your website.
What Does DNS Do?
DNS is a process in which the human-readable domain name that is typed in your browser gets translated to machine language so computers and servers properly pinpoint and serve your website on the Internet.
The DNS host file maps the domain example.com into an IPv4 address (188.8.131.52) or an IPv6 address (3002:0bd6:0015:0306:aa00:ee00:0033:6778). This process means you don’t have to remember a thread of characters and numbers, only the domain you enter in your browser.
DNS records can also be used to authenticate your site for Google services, SSL certificates, and other software like plugins.
A crucial part of DNS is also authentication of emails and also security of your mailboxes. Through TXT records, emails are authenticated, so they do not bounce back or get blocked by the receiver. TXT records also help prevent spoofing.
How Does DNS Work?
Here is a short description of how DNS works:
1. A domain is purchased at the domain registrar.
2. You set up the nameserver (NS record) with your domain registrar. The NS record makes your DNS location known to the Internet and where it’s read.
3. You update your DNS zone with the correct records usually found with your hosting company.
4. Client types in example.com and is led to your site in seconds.
Some of the Most Important DNS Records
Here are some of the most common and vital DNS records and their descriptions:
- A or AAAA record - This record's value holds your site's IP address type. A is for IPv4 addresses, and AAAA is for IPv6 addresses.
- NS record - This record value pinpoints from where your DNS information is read.
- MX record - This record is used for mail services. Its value determines the server you are sending from and where you should receive messages. Email should redirect to the A record if you are missing this record, but this is seldom the case.
- CNAME record - This record maps out aliases to your proper canonical name. For example, it can map a client who types in www.example.com to example.com.
- TXT record - The value of this record is used to authenticate your site for various purposes like email (SPF and DKIM), continued SSL renewals, and Google services and plugin authentication.
How to Update Your DNS Zone
Managing DNS on your server is straightforward, depending on your hosting provider. At Liquid Web, it is accomplished in just a few steps.
1. Look up your NS record location.
2. Go to where those NS records are pointing. For example, ns1.liquidweb.com would mean your DNS zone is located at Liquid Web.
3. Usually, hosting companies have a graphical user interface (GUI) that you can go through to manage DNS options. For example, you can edit the DNS zone from the Manage web client at Liquid Web.
4. Carefully review the records. If you have misspelled, missing, or extra values, the DNS records won't work correctly and can cause your site to stop loading. Your hosting provider should maintain the correct information.
DNS Lookup Process
1. The user types example.com into the browser.
2. The request is then routed to the DNS resolver.
3. The example.com request is forwarded to the root DNS server.
4. The example.com request is then forwarded by the DNS resolver, this time to one of the top-level domain (TLD) nameservers for .com domains. The nameserver responds with 2 or 4 nameservers connected to the example.com nameservers.
5. The DNS resolver then chooses the authoritative example.com nameserver and forwards the request to the domain.
6. The website's nameserver then looks in the example.com hosted zone, gets its web server's associated A record (IP address) and returns it to the DNS resolver.
7. The DNS resolver now has the IP address and serves it to the user’s browser.
8. The browser then sends the example.com request using the IP address.
9. The web server then serves and displays the web page to the browser.
Understanding DNS is necessary for Internet surfing to be as enjoyable as it is today. With it, troubleshooting common DNS errors or advanced operations like updating reverse DNS is easier. In addition, knowing the basics of DNS will help web hosting make more sense.
Existing Liquid Web customers enjoy excellent support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including DNS best practices and management. Are you ready to move to Liquid Web’s suite of managed hosting products and services? Contact our sales team for a consultation on the best hosting solutions for your needs.
About the Author: Phil Kyle
Phil is a huge computer enthusiast. In addition, he enjoys watching good movies and playing chess.
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