What is DNS?

We’ve already covered that DNS stands for Domain Name System, but what the heck is a domain name system?!

Essentially, DNS is a large network of servers that contain vital information that connects domain names (ex: yourwebsite.com) to the IP address of the web server where that website is hosted.

Without DNS, if we wanted to visit a particular website, we would have to type an IP address into our web browser (ex: Because this would be incredibly hard to remember, DNS works behind-the-scenes to map a website’s IP address to a more friendly domain name.

DNS Explained in 5 Simple Steps

Let’s take a look at a real-world example of how DNS works.

  1. You open your web browser to check Facebook, so you type facebook.com into your browser’s address bar
  2. Your browser checks the DNS to see if a valid IP address is assigned to facebook.com
  3. DNS responds with a valid IP address, and provides it to your browser
  4. Now that your browser has the IP address of Facebook’s web server, it asks for the files needed to load the site
  5. Facebook’s web server provides your browser with all the files that are needed to load facebook.com’s homepage, and voila!, your Facebook feed appears

This is a somewhat simplified version, but for most people, it’s more than enough to grasp a basic understanding of how DNS works.

DNS Records Explained

DNS uses several different types of records to achieve this routing of information across the internet. We most often think of DNS in terms of mapping domain names for websites, but it also plays a vital role in email, among other things.

I won’t go into too much detail, as this is more of a “DNS for Beginners” article. But I’ll briefly cover the types of DNS records and what they are used for.

Types of DNS Records

Technically, there are 9-10 different types of DNS records (depending on how you classify them), but the 4 main types that most of us need to be aware of are:

  • A: Used to map a domain name to an IP address.  A records are most commonly used when setting up a website.
  • CNAME: Used to create a domain alias, or point a sub-domain to another server.
  • MX: Assigns a mail server to a domain name. MX records are used to set up email accounts.
  • TXT: Used for various purposes, TXT records may contain unformatted strings of text.

For now, we’ll leave it at that. DNS can seem complicated if you’ve never worked with it before. I recommend reaching out to a web developer if you think any DNS changes need to be made for your domain name.

In the future, we’ll expand on this article to cover more specific, DNS-related topics.