What is DNS?

DNS (Domain Name System) is something that webmasters need to be completely informed of. Most aren’t even sure what the entire process is about, but that’s why this article was written in the first place! The DNS takes domains and readable hostnames (like www.example.com) and converts them into machine-readable request. They change them into IP addresses, so instead of the human-ready URL the machine is simply reading the IP address that it’s been converted into. Not only that, but it also provides a plethora of extra information regarding domains, and that includes things like mail services (or anything else that relies on the database).

Why So Important?

DNS is important to understand because it’s what connects everybody to everything, it’s pretty much like a notebook full of contacts for your internet endeavours. You might know somebodies name (or e-mail) but not their hostnames, which is where DNS comes into play. As opposed to searching high and low for it, the DNS process acts like a phonebook and connects you to the right person at the right time. If the DNS process wasn’t implemented the internet as we know it would be completely different, as we would be connection to IP addresses (like http://112.23.134.110, which is a random IP address, so I wouldn’t recommend connecting to it!)

The process isn’t that complicated either, firstly the computer goes through the resolving process pertaining to a hostname (which would be a domain name/URL). The first place that gets accessed is the local DNS cache within your machine, which is always storing information that has been accessed by your computer on a consistent basis. If the computer hasn’t already gone through the process and found the answers once, it needs to go through a DNS query to properly operate.

This is where ISP (Internet Service Providers) come into play, because your computer then accesses their recursive DNS servers to find the proper IP address. These particular servers have their very own cache of information, and their sole purpose is to go through these DNS queries whenever it’s required (this is usually what happens).

From here the TLD namesevers get accessed if the hostname hasn’t already been located, and although it doesn’t give us the exact address we need the Top-Level Domain nameservers do point us in the right direction. From here the machine asks the authoritative nameservers (which is usually a websites hosting company that controls all of the information). Since they’re responsible for specific domains computers quickly access their necessary IP addresses, and then from here they get stored in your DNS records for future use.

There are a bunch of different records, but since we’re looking for a websites address this would be an “Address Record”. The recursive server goes through the process of retrieving the Address Record for the site at hand, which is usually obtained from the authoritative nameservers. From here the records are stored in the cache, and from there the computer itself simply receives the “answer” (being the IP address they’ve been trying to get the entire time!). A lengthy process for something that seems so simple.