Basics of DNS Records
This article will help you understand what DNS is and the different types of DNS records.
What is DNS?
The Domain Name System, also known as DNS, refers to the large-scale system of information containing IP addresses, domain names, hosting, and other registration information across every site on the internet. Like a phone book, the DNS translates domain names to IP addresses and helps locate a website on the internet.
Why is it important?
Computers and other devices on the internet use IP addresses to route your request to access a website. Without DNS, you will have to remember complex IP addresses in accessing your site. Before this system was created, the only way people could access your website would be by typing in its IP address. Sounds complicated, right?
Because of DNS, people only need to remember your domain name when searching your website through their browsers.
What are DNS records?
DNS records act as instructions for the DNS server, so it knows which domain names each IP address is associated with. DNS records contain a lot of different syntax and commands for how the server should respond to the request.
Here are the common DNS records you will find in your control panel.
Name servers are the primary records in DNS and act as the server component. It connects the IP address to a domain name on a server. The primary function of the name servers is to translate an IP address to an easily remembered domain name and makes an IP address answer back to a domain name on a server.
For example, the IP address:
Resolves to the domain:
If it weren't for name servers, people would need to use IP addresses to pull up websites rather than a domain name, making web addresses a lot harder to remember.
Here is what name servers look like within your Customer Portal.
On the other hand, NS records show which name servers are currently used for your domain.
The A record, also known as Address records, is the other side to name servers. It points a domain or subdomain to a specific IP address (IPv4) on a server. This record controls which specific server will host an online presence, such as email, website, and online apps.
For example, the IP address '22.214.171.124' points to the domain name 'example.com' as shown below.
Canonical name records, better known as CNAME records, serve as aliases for domain names of another canonical domain name. This record is used to indicate subdomains that might be listed under or associated with your current domain.
The most common example is when you have both 'example.com' and 'www.example.com.'
The Mail Exchange record or MX record specifies the mail server responsible for sending and receiving emails on behalf of a domain name. MX records work in conjunction with A and NS records to direct the email received for a domain name to the proper mail server.
MX records vary depending on your email host; some may have multiple MX records, such as Google Workspace, and some may only have one, like HostGator. Usually, MX records are prioritized with a number of preferences that indicate which mail servers should be used when several are listed.
Text or TXT records are custom records containing human- and machine-readable data. These records are used for various purposes, including the prevention of spoofing email attacks and validation of domain ownership, such as Google Workspace.
The Service record or SRV record is used to point a domain name to another domain using a specific destination port. It allows specific services, such as a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or IM (Instant Messaging), to be directed to a separate location.
Pointer or PTR records are used to resolve IPs to a domain name and vice versa. That means you can make 'hostgator.com' point to '10.0.0.1' and make a PTR record so that '10.0.0.1,' if checked, would tell you that it belongs to 'hostgator.com.' PTR records are used for Reverse DNS lookup. It also allows the receiver of your emails to check for possible spoofing emails, treated as spam. Without this record, the receiver must rely on guessing if your email might be spam.
The AAAA record is similar and works the same way as the A record. The only difference is it allows you to point a domain name to an IPv6 IP address. Currently, HostGator does not support IPv6 addresses.
- Zone File - It is a text file that contains all the DNS records of a domain name. This is where you can add, remove, and delete a DNS record.
- Name - This section is where you place the domain you wish to add or edit its DNS record.
- TTL - It is the acronym of 'Time To Live.' It is the expiration date placed on a DNS record. It tells the server how long a record should be stored locally before a new copy of the record must be retrieved from the DNS.
- Address - It points a domain name to the destination server where the domain and subdomain send the site traffic.
As you can see, there are numerous components of your DNS records, but most of this information can’t and shouldn’t be altered. The main component of your DNS records that will concern you, and you might have to change at some point, are your name servers.
- How to Change DNS Records
- DNS Troubleshooting Guide
- What is DNS Propagation?
- Pointing My Domain to HostGator When Using DNS Elsewhere