Domain names: what are DNS and name servers?

Opening your browser and browsing the internet is a process you probably don’t think too much about. You’d think it doesn’t go further than typing in a domain name and being taken to the web page you want to visit. However, behind the scenes, a lot more is happening. Two super important aspects of your daily browsing are DNS and name servers. Today we discuss what they are, how they work, and why they are so important.

What is DNS?

Before we can go into detail about what name servers are, it’s important to understand how the internet works and what role DNS, an abbreviation of Domain Name System, plays in this. In short, web browsers interact through Internet Protocol addresses and the DNS system translates domain names into IP addresses. This allows Humans to enter a domain name such as and the relevant website to be loaded. 

DNS is often called the phonebook of the Internet. The reason for this is that whenever you enter a domain name in your browser, DNS servers try to locate the right IP address and load the website you want to see. This means that instead of having to remember each website (person’s) IP address (phone number), you can simply enter a domain name.

What are name servers? 

The Domain Name System consists of different name servers. The DNS records of your domain name are stored in the name servers of your domain name. These name servers do the actual work and help to navigate traffic over the internet by translating domain names into IP addresses. 

Confused? We thought so. In other words: you enter the domain name in your browser, a request is made to the name servers that are set up for this domain. The name servers then return the IP address that is registered in the DNS settings of the domain name.

What are DNS records?

For your domain name, you can set up DNS records. DNS records are like the entries in the DNS phonebook. By setting up the DNS records correctly, you can let your domain name refer to a website or email server. You will often find the DNS records of your domain names in the control panel your hosting provider uses.

Which type of DNS records can I use?

There are a ton of different DNS records that allow you to manage your domain name.

  • A-records (address records): to connect and IPV4 address to a (sub)domain
  • AAA-record: to connect an iPv6 address to a (sub)domain
  • CNAME-record: to connect a subdomain to another (subdomain)
  • MX-record (mail exchange): to direct emails to a specific mail server
  • TXT-record: traditionally for adding readable text in DNS records. Nowadays it’s used for multiple things, such as SPF and DKIM-records.
    • SPF-record: SPF-records are used to make clear which IP address or hostname has permission to send emails from your domain name
    • DKIM-records: these records are mainly used to validate the sender of an email.
  • CAA-record: this record is to specify the “Certificate Authority’s” that can give your an SSL certificate for your (sub)domain
  • SRV-record: to specify the location of a service on a (sub)domain
  • NS-record: to use separate name servers for subdomains
  • TLSA-record: to connect a TLS server (X.509) certificate or public key to a domain name

Why are DNS and name servers important?

Whenever you create a website, you want people to be able to find it – DNS and name servers make this possible. Therefore, it’s important that you know your name servers. 

DNS Hosting at Hostio Solutions

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