A common question we receive is what is a DNS or Domain Name System? What does it do? Why do I need to know this to maintain my website? At first, DNS records can seem daunting, but understanding DNS is crucial for managing your website’s online presence effectively. DNS records are like the internet’s phonebook, translating human-friendly domain names into IP addresses that computers use to identify each other on the network. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you get acquainted with the basics of DNS records.

What is DNS?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical and decentralized naming system for computers, services, or any resource connected to the Internet or a private network. It translates easily memorized domain names to the numerical IP addresses needed for locating and identifying computer services and devices that store that information.

Imagine you have a big book of names,` like “Sally’s House” or “Mike’s Pizza.” When you want to visit them, you look up their name in your book, and it tells you their house number and street, which is like their “address” in the neighborhood. The Internet works similarly, but instead of houses and streets, we have websites and computers.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is like that big book of names for the Internet. It’s a way to match the website names we can easily remember, like “Google.com” or “Facebook.com,” with their specific “addresses” on the Internet, which are numbers called IP addresses (like Since it’s much easier for us to remember “Google.com” than a string of numbers, the DNS helps us by turning those easy-to-remember names into the number addresses that computers use to find each other on the Internet.

This big book isn’t kept in one place; it’s spread out all over the world on different computers to make sure it’s always available and works quickly. And just like a tree has branches that split off into smaller branches, the DNS is organized in levels, so it’s easier to manage and find things. This system helps everyone on the Internet, whether they’re using a computer at home or a phone connected to Wi-Fi, find where they want to go by just using simple names instead of complicated numbers.

Key DNS Record Types

There are different types of DNS records. Each type serves a specific purpose, catering to different needs related to domain management, email services, security, and more. Here’s a breakdown of why this diversity in DNS records is crucial:

1. A Record (Address Record)

The A Record is the cornerstone of DNS records. It links a domain to the physical IP address of a computer hosting that domain’s services. For instance, when someone types in www.example.com, the A Record connects that domain to the server’s IP address, guiding the user’s browser to the website.

2. CNAME Record (Canonical Name Record)

CNAME Records are used to alias one domain name to another. This is useful for associating subdomains with the domain’s main A Record. For example, if blog.example.com and shop.example.com are both directed to example.com, CNAME Records for ‘blog’ and ‘shop’ point to the primary domain, simplifying management and changes.

3. MX Record (Mail Exchange Record)

MX Records are crucial for email functionality. They direct email to your domain’s mail servers. Each MX Record points to a mail server and has a priority setting that determines the order in which the servers are used. This helps in managing the flow of emails and ensures redundancy.

4. TXT Record (Text Record)

TXT Records are versatile and can contain any text-based information. They’re often used for verification purposes, such as proving domain ownership or implementing email security measures like Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

5. NS Record (Name Server Record)

NS Records identify the DNS servers responsible for a domain. These records are essential for delegating subdomains and for the overall DNS infrastructure, ensuring that queries are routed correctly to the authoritative servers for domain resolution.

6. PTR Record (Pointer Record)

Unlike most DNS records that map a domain name to an IP address, PTR Records do the opposite, mapping an IP address to a domain name. This is primarily used in reverse DNS lookups, which can be important for network troubleshooting and email spam filtering.

Managing DNS Records

DNS records are usually managed through your domain registrar or hosting provider’s control panel. When you register a domain or set up hosting, you’ll have access to a DNS management interface where you can view, add, or modify DNS records.

It’s important to approach changes to DNS records with caution, as incorrect settings can make your website or services temporarily inaccessible. Here are a few tips for managing DNS records:

  • Understand the purpose: Before making changes, ensure you understand the purpose of each DNS record and the potential impact of the changes.
  • Backup: Keep a record of your existing DNS settings before making changes, in case you need to revert.
  • Propagation time: DNS changes can take time to propagate across the internet, often up to 48 hours, so immediate effects may not be visible.

Understanding DNS records is a fundamental part of managing your online presence. Each type of DNS record serves a unique purpose, from directing traffic to your website to handling email routing. By familiarizing yourself with the basic DNS records and following best practices for managing them, you can ensure that your domain’s online operations run smoothly. Remember, DNS changes can have significant impacts, so always proceed with care and consult with experts if you’re unsure.

Have a question about how to manage your DNS? Our support team is here to help.