What is a DNS Record? DNS Records Explained

Like humans, every website on the internet has a name, commonly known as a domain name. We access information on the World Wide Web using domain names, such as nytimes.com or easyDMARC.com. Each domain name has a corresponding IPaddress, used to communicate between networks and devices on the internet. 

The question is: How does the internet link a domain name like google.com to its internet address? 

The mapping of domain names to IP addresses is possible using the DNS system and DNS records. So what is a DNS record? In this article, we’ll explore what a DNS record is, but first, let’s talk about DNS itself.

 

What is the Domain Name System (DNS)?

DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System. It’s a hierarchical naming database that identifies devices on the internet via their IP addresses. When you access a website online, you use the domain name (such as google.com). Web browsers use IP addresses.

Much like a directory or phonebook, the DNS bridges the gap between a domain name and its corresponding IP address. It essentially contains and distributes domain name and IP address information, translating the former into the latter so web browsers can load requested web pages.

In technical terms, the DNS maps human-readable domain names to their corresponding numerical identifiers, known as Internet Protocol (IP) Addresses. The DNS then performs a DNS record lookup to translate domain names into IP addresses, and action requests.

When you input the URL Facebook.com into your web browser, the DNS service translates this to 179:60:192:36 so that the initiating client can load the requested webpage. 

The Domain Name System works exactly like a phonebook that maps a phone number to a contact’s name So when you find and call a specific contact, their phone number displays alongside the corresponding name. 

Domain names were created because numerical identifiers (IP addresses) are difficult to remember. The DNS is divided into domains of various levels controlled via decentralized DNS zones. Let’s take www.easyDMARC.com as an example for better understanding: ‘Www’ is a third-level domain, ‘easyDMARC’ is a second-level domain, and ‘com’ is a top-level one. 

So, what is a DNS record and how does it fit into the Domain Name System? DNS records are required to manage domain names. They’re ultimately a set of instructions related to your domains, hosts, services, etc. DNS records are explained in more detail below, but let’s go over some DNS jargon first.

DNS Terms Explained

To better understand DNS records and manage your domain name, there’s some essential terminology you need to know. Here are a few common DNS terms:

  • IP Address – An Internet Protocol Address  is a unique host identifier that contains lines of numbers separated by periods. For instance, 192.168.10.1. Computers on the internet connect and communicate via the Internet Protocol with IP addresses.
  • TLD or Top Level Domain – A TLD is one of the domain name hierarchical structures. It’s located immediately after the second-level domain name and the final dot for the root. Examples include .uk, .com, .gov, .net, .org, and more. 

TLDs were initially developed to categorize domain names based on geographical location, purpose, field, etc. TLDs may indicate whether a website belongs to a government, international body, etc, although generic and trademark TLDs also exist.

  • Anycast DNS – This is a routing technique that uses the same IP address for multiple servers in different locations. With Anycast DNS, client requests are directed to the nearest nameserver, allowing for reduced latency and a better overall experience.

In addition, Anycast DNS adds an extra layer of redundancy and is resistant to DNS attacks. 

  • FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name) – The complete domain name for a particular host or computer on the internet. It encompasses all three parts of a domain name: Hostname, second-level, and top-level domain. A typical example is mymail.easyDMARC.com. 
  • DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extension) – A security extension that safeguards DNS communication and mitigates DNS spoofing.  It’s a feature that validates responses to DNS lookups using private and public-key encryption. While it doesn’t offer privacy protection, it prevents hackers from modifying or poisoning responses to DNS requests. 
  • Dynamic DNS – Automatically updates nameservers when a change occurs. With Dynamic DNS, you can update the Internet Protocol address of your A DNS records or AAA DNS records. CCTV cameras and remote services are common use cases of Dynamic DNS as you don’t need static IP addresses.

What is a DNS Query?

Before we can define a DNS record, it’s vital to know what a DNS query is. A Domain Name System query is a request for information sent from a user’s node or computer (often called a DNS client) to a DNS server. A client typically sends a DNS query to request the IP address associated with a domain name. 

A DNS query encompasses the Fully Qualified Domain Name, the class, and the query type. There are two ways a DNS client can query a DNS server: Recursive or non-recursive. 

Recursive DNS Query

A recursive DNS query is where one Domain Name Server contacts other DNS servers to fetch the IP address of a hostname and return it to the client. In this case, the DNS server does all the work and returns the answer to you. 

Non-Recursive DNS Query

A non-recursive DNS query, otherwise called an iterative DNS query, is where the DNS server responds with the IP address of the hostname from its zone file cache, if possible. If the server doesn’t have the IP address, it forwards a referrer to other DNS servers. Unlike the recursive DNS query, the client communicates directly with every DNS server involved in the lookup.

 

What is a DNS Server?

A DNS server or nameserver contains the database of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. The primary job of a nameserver is to translate and resolve these names to IP addresses as requested by DNS clients.

When you enter a website address into your browser, a DNS server sends a DNS query to various servers, each translating a different part of the domain name you entered. There are four main types of DNS servers: DNS recursive revolvers, TLD nameservers, authoritative nameservers, and root nameservers. 

DNS Recursive Resolver

A recursive resolver, also known as a DNS recursor, is the first stop in a DNS query. It acts as an intermediary between the client and nameservers. A DNS recursor can respond to a query if it has the answer in its cache. Otherwise, it sends a request to other servers to fetch the IP address. Once it receives the response, it sends the IP address to the client. 

Root Nameserver

The root nameserver is the first step in the domain-to-IP-address translation. This server tells the DNS recursor the Top Level Domain server’s address, removing it from the user’s DNS query. For instance, www.easyDMARC.com provides information about the .com TLD nameserver. 

TLD Nameservers

A TLD DNS server contains information for all domain names with common extensions, such as .com, .uk, .net., or whatever extensions that come after the dot in a URL. When the DNS resolver queries this server, it points to the Authoritative Name Server of where the website is returned.

Authoritative Nameservers

This is a high-level nameserver in the DNS hierarchical structure, and it stores up-to-date information about a hostname. This is the last step in the user’s DNS query. It receives the query and returns the correct IP address to the DNS resolver.

 

What is a DNS Record? DNS Record Types Explained

DNS records are instructions in the authoritative server that translate human-friendly domain names to IP addresses. These database records also contain various commands on how DNS servers must handle DNS requests. 

Different DNS records, as explained below, are needed to help connect your website to the internet. Here are the most common types of DNS records

  • A RecordThis DNS record holds the IPv4 address of a domain or subdomain. You can use this record for blog.example.com and point it to where your blog is. 
  • AAAA RecordIt’s similar to the A DNS record but points a domain to its IPv6 address. 
  • CNAME RecordThis record links a subdomain to a domain’s A or AAAA record. 
  • MX RecordMail eXchange records are used to direct incoming emails to a domain’s email server.
  • TXT RecordAllows you to store textual information in the domain or subdomain. Most applications use this DNS record to check information about the service you’re running. 
  • NS RecordNS records are used to assign a domain or subdomain to a set of DNS servers, which contain all of the domain’s DNS records 
  • SOA RecordStart of Authority records contain important information about the DNS zone files, including administrator email addresses and the period DNS servers should wait between refreshes.
  • PTR RecordPointer records are the opposite of A records. While an A DNS record points a domain to its IP address, a Pointer record points an IP address to its domain.

How to Check DNS Records

There are several reasons why knowing how to check DNS records for a domain is important. For example, if your website is down, it might either be due to incorrect DNS records or misconfigured updates.

One of the most effective ways to check your DNS record is via the CLI using the nslookup command. The command is available on all operating systems (Linux, Windows, or macOS). 

The nslookup command shows all DNS records of the domain. You can check A DNS records using the below command. 

nslookup -type=A hostens.com

Alternatively, use our DNS Record Lookup tool to check DNS records using different servers.

 

How to Manage DNS Entries

Managing your DNS entries is important, and the process is easy. You can manage your DNS entries from your domain provider’s control panel. There are several DNS providers you can consider, such as One.com, GoDaddy, Microsoft Azure, NS1, and Google Public DNS.

Regardless of the provider you choose, the process is the same. Log in to the control panel, go to the DNS settings, then locate DNS records.  Here, you’ll be able to edit, delete, or add new entries.

 

What Else Can DNS Do?

Now that we’ve discussed the basics of DNS and explained DNS records, you should know that DNS can do more than translate domain names to IP addresses. Advanced Domain Name system solutions can do incredible things, such as:

  • Global server load balancing for the fast routing of data centers distributed worldwide.
  • Multi CDN to route users to the best possible content delivery networks.
  • Geographical routing to identify users’ locations for routing to the nearest resource.
  • Internet traffic management to optimize traffic flow and reduce network congestion.
  • Data center and cloud migration to control traffic between on-premise and cloud resources.

Conclusion

Domain Name System records are an integral part of the internet. They’re what makes a domain name such as easyDMARC.com point to its corresponding IP address. Knowing the basics of DNS records is the first step to becoming a DNS expert. This article is an introduction to the essentials. Check out our blogs for more in-depth info on various DNS-related topics.

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