DNS: The Internet’s GPS

This week, I’m going to discuss DNS records.  DNS is an acronym that stands for  DOMAIN name server, and chances are that if you have ever configured web hosting, you have probably pulled a hair out over the configuration of these records.  I feel you, don’t fret.  Here is everything you need to know about DNS records.

Domain name servers are what make the internet work.  These servers are responsible for taking a human-readable domain name and translating it to a computer-readable IP address.  To accomplish this, domain name servers utilize DNS records.  These records tell the DNS server which IP address each domain is associated with, and how to handle other requests sent to that domain.  For example, when you open your browser and type in totaldog.com, your computer will access your ISP’s  DNS of choice, where it will translate totaldog.com to it’s IP address, 66.147.244.176.   This method of translation also occurs for things like email addresses, and FTP’s.

I’ll breakdown a few of the most commonly used DNS records in order to better clarify the purpose of each.

A RECORD

“A” stands for “address”.  This record simply relates an IPv4 address to your domain.  Similarly, an “AAAA” record relates an IPv6 address to your domain.

CNAME RECORD

The “C” in “CNAME” stands for the word “canonical” which, in our case, is used to describe genuinity of a another related domain name.  This record is used to make one domain an alias of another domain.

MX RECORD

The “MX” in the mx record stands for “mail exchange.”  This record is used to relate a list of mail exchange servers to the domain.

PTR RECORD

These records are used for “reverse dns”, or mapping an IP address to a host name.  This is largely used for tracking web traffic, or the origin of an email.

NS RECORD

“NS” is for “name server.”  This record can be used to indicate which name server is the authoritative record for the domain.  When you have purchased a domain name from a registrar, you will use this record to relate your domain to your DNS host’s name servers.

TXT RECORD

“Text” records are used to store textual information that should be made available to outside sources. 

Also very mentionable is the “TTL”,  or  “time to live” property.  Though it sounds quite more dire than it is, you may find it still has a large effect on your productivity.  Altering this property will change the amount of time other DNS servers cache your record.   In other words, if you plan on changing your records often and would like to see those changes propagated across the domain name system in a timely fashion, your TTL should be set quite low.  Please note that TTL is in seconds.

Here is a cool online tool I found that will let you view DNS records for any website. [dns-record-viewer.online-domain-tools.com]

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