Domain Name System (DNS) is extremely important for any online business. Even though DNS is super important, it’s an often overlooked part of the internet. Without DNS, the internet would not exist. We would have to go back to buying CDs to play music, DVDs to play movies, and read the newspaper to know what’s happening.
In this article, we’re going over the basics of what DNS is, why it’s important, and how it affects you.
What is DNS?
We all know that computers don’t go by names, they go by numbers. In a network, computers identify each other through numbers, also called IP addresses. However, we, humans, are used to using names instead of numbers. In order to bridge the communication gap between computers and humans, network engineers developed DNS. DNS resolves domain names into IP addresses.
An example: you want to visit a website called www.example.com. What do you do? Exactly, you’ll probably enter the domain name. However, you can also type in the IP address of the website.
How does DNS work?
When you type in www.example.com, your device will try to determine the IP address of this website. This is called a DNS record. If your device already knows, the DNS record can be found in your device’s DNS cache memory. If your device can’t find the IP address of the website in the cache, your operating system has to send a query to a Resolving Name Server, also known as your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
If your resolving name server doesn’t know the IP address of the website, then it has to find the Root Name Server. There are 13 sets of root servers placed all over the world.
The root name server itself won’t be able to find a matching IP address for the domain name. However, the root server will know where to send the resolver name server in order to find the IP address. The root server will send the resolver to the Top Level Domain (TLD) server for the IP address of www.example.com. The TLD server stores IP addresses for Top Level Domains such as .com, .net, and .org.
However, the TLD server will also not know what the IP address of example.com is. Therefore, the TLD will redirect the Resolving Root Server to the Authoritative Name Server. The Authoritative Name Server will know everything about the domain, including the domain’s IP address.
Finally, the Resolver Name Server will tell your device the IP address and your device will be able to connect to www.example.com. Your device will store the IP address of the website in its cache memory. By doing this, it doesn’t have to go through the whole process again when visiting the website for a second time.
Now, this whole cycle might sound complex and very long, in reality, it works extremely fast.
DNS Made Easy created a really helpful video about DNS. You can find it here:
What’s the difference between free DNS and paid DNS?
Generally, when a user visits your website, your website’s DNS records are cached by the closest resolving name server. This helps users in the region to access your website as quickly as possible. This is what’s called free DNS. Free DNS takes milliseconds and is usually enough for smaller businesses.
However, larger businesses tend to use paid DNS services to get guarantees such as 100% uptime. Paid DNS generally also includes faster lookup speeds, a secondary DNS, increased security, geo traffic redirection, and more.
What is DNS management?
For every query, you need a resolving name server, the root name server, the TLD name server, and the authoritative name server. The dangerous thing here is when one part of the DNS process is altered, which is also known as a DNS attack. A DNS attack can be prevented with DNS management.
Hosting companies usually offer their clients a DNS management service. DNS management services generally allow customers to manage their DNS records, including DDoS protection, and ensure a 100% uptime.
DNS can be compared as a phone number in your contact list: you usually look up a name first and then find the number. Without DNS, the internet as we know it today would not exist. The DNS process is quite vulnerable and DNS attacks happen regularly. To be prepared, you can use DNS management services.