If you were born in the 1990s or earlier, you may have memories of how your parents saved phone numbers and addresses in their diaries. For the younger generation, yes, they used pen and paper to do that since smartphones were distant dreams back in the day. Similarly, a domain name system (DNS) serves as a virtual directory of the internet, converting website names into IP addresses to help your computer understand which website you are looking for.
IP addresses are far from being human-friendly. For example, the IP address of a website you are looking for is 18.104.22.168, so remembering it is like trying to remember a dream upon waking. Right? However, it is easier for a human to remember the domain name abc.com.
This blog sheds light on DNS, how it works, and the relationship between DNS and internet connectivity.
Purpose and Functionality of DNS
Welcome to the digital era where life without the Internet is almost unthinkable. The internet is a game-changer and revolutionized how we communicate, work, look for information and collate data.
We have all been fascinated by the wonders of our universe, isn’t it? The Internet is a digital universe of connections and information powered by a complex web of interconnected forces including servers, protocols, service providers, and most importantly, the DNS.
Let’s understand the role of DNS and how it helps 5.3 billion users access their favorite content the way they expect consistently.
DNS’s Role in Translating Domain Names to IP Addresses
Have you ever typed a website’s name and were directed to the wrong site? No, right? Have you wondered why? It’s because of DNS.
Here’s how it works. It translates the website’s human-friendly domain name to an IP address, saving you the trouble of memorizing complex numerical addresses. Simply put, this translation is vital to locating and connecting to the main server that hosts the website you are looking for. It ensures you are directed to the correct website or access the desired web content.
It is safe to say that the internet without DNS would be like driving around Tokyo or Sydney without street names and sign boards, making it challenging for computers and other connected devices to locate and access websites.
DNS Hierarchy: Exploring the Structure of the Domain Name System
If you thought hierarchies were limited to the animal kingdom and the corporate world, think again. Welcome to the DNS hierarchy.
The logic behind creating the hierarchy is to club a group of domains with similar characteristics in the same family. This ensures that the domain namespace is effectively distributed across multiple nodes.
Let’s explore the DNS hierarchy. Do not worry, we’ll keep it simple.
Root Zone Servers
The root server sits at the top of the hierarchy. It is worth noting that root servers are technically known as Root Zone servers and directly answer queries for all the records cached and stored on that root zone server. These queries typically include a domain name, to which, the root server forwards them to the TLD server, depending on that domain’s extension (.com, .edu, .au).
Today, we have 13 root servers geographically spread across the world and if you are curious to know where they are, click here.
The root server is typically represented by a period (.).
Top-level Domains (TLDs)
While they are called top-level domains or TLDs, technically, they fall under root zone servers in the DNS hierarchy. TLD servers are primarily responsible for storing information related to a particular TLD domain. For example, the .edu TLD server will store all the information related to domain names ending with .edu.
TLDs can be further divided into two types:
Generic TLDs such as .net, .edu, .org etc.
Country code TLDs such as .au, .uk,.nz, etc.
Some common examples of TLDs are .uk, .com, .edu, .net, and .org.
Now, we move to second-level domains which typically indicate the company to which that particular domain belongs.
For instance, on www.crazydomains.com.au, .com represents the second level.
Third-level domains are lower in the pecking order and are largely used to organize internet addresses within the same organization.
Again, on the website, www.crazydomains.com.au, www represents the third-level domain. Some of the other examples include apps. google and docs.google
DNS Resolution Process: How DNS Converts Domain Names to IP Addresses
Now that we have a fair understanding of what is DNS and that it is responsible for converting www.justanexample.com to 192.455.655.01, let’s explore what’s going on behind the scenes.
It is essential to understand that every device connected to the internet comes with a pre-installed DNS resolver. The DNS resolver, as the name suggests resolves the DNS before the requested page or content loads. This allows your browser to establish a TCP connection to facilitate the HTTP request. Additionally, DNS resolution begins as soon as you type a URL in the search bar and request the DNS resolver to find the corresponding IP address of the website you are looking for.
Let’s say that you want to visit www.myhappyplace.com. You search for it by typing the web address and hitting Enter. At this point, the DNS resolver is responsible for fetching the IP address linked to www.myhappyplace.com. It can either go through the cache or initiate the DNS resolution process to facilitate the request. Your browser will now establish a connection upon receiving the IP address, and the host server will send the requested web page to your screen, enabling you to browse the desired website.
Components of the Domain Name System
This section takes you through the important components of the DNS. The DNS consists of three major components including, Name space, Name server, and zone.
Every domain name should be unique and picked from a namespace. Namespaces are mainly organized in two ways including a flat namespace and a hierarchical namespace.
A flat namespace is assigned to an IP address and need not have a certain structure. On the other hand, a hierarchical namespace has multiple parts. While the first part typically indicates the theme of the organization, the second part represents the name of the organization, and the third part highlights the department within that organization.
DNS Servers: The Backbone of the Domain Name System
DNS servers contain all the information tied to domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. They are responsible for looking up the requested domain name and converting domain names to IP addresses. The need for name servers arises from the large volumes of critical information stored in domain namespaces since it would be impractical to solely rely on a single system to handle requests coming from all over the globe.
DNS Zones and Records: Managing DNS Information
It is important to understand that the namespace is further divided into different zones. Each DNS zone represents the area each server has access. Each zone contains a zone file which is essentially a database of that particular zone. The DNS server uses the data in the zone file to address queries in that zone.
Registrars and Registrations: Securing Your Domain Name
Just as every individual has a name, every website has a domain name. That said, there’s a catch here. While they are unique in other ways, two individuals can have the same name. This is not the case for websites. Each website should have a unique domain name, which is why it is imperative to reserve a domain name for your business before someone else snatches it away from you.
A domain name should reflect the core theme of your company and the content you upload on your website. Let’s admit it, you wouldn’t want a misleading domain name that does not represent the name and reflect the theme of your business.
What is a Domain Name Registrar?
So, how do you reserve a domain name? The simple answer – through domain name registrars.
Domain name registrar is a business that overlooks the reservation of domain names for businesses. It is responsible for reserving domain names and assigning IP addresses to the respective domains. That said, domain name registrars are not responsible for maintaining and managing domains as that front is handled by the domain name registry.
How Can I Buy a Domain Name for My Website?
As mentioned before, you can buy a domain name for your website from a domain name registrar like Crazy Domains. All you need to do is, type in your preferred domain name, check its availability, and pay a fee. While it seems straightforward, several businesses struggle to register a domain name of their choice since someone has already scooped it.
If you are sailing in the same boat, you are in luck. All you need to do is run a domain name search to check whether the domain name you are eyeing is available.
Exploring the Relationship Between DNS and Web Browsing
We have covered the basics of a domain name system, explored DNS servers, and studied DNS hierarchies. Now, let’s understand how DNS enables seamless web browsing. Surely, DNS has nothing to do with how fast a website loads, right? Well, read on to find out.
DNS and Internet Speed
Can you recall a situation when a particular website or page just wouldn’t load instantly? We have all been there, haven’t we? While your internet connection is the most obvious culprit, DNS also plays an important role here.
DNS servers affect your browsing speed, and it is a good time to talk about DNS records to understand their role. Let’s focus on A record, which stands for “address.” The A record translates all domain names to IP addresses. However, if the DNS server’s latency is high, it slows down the translation of domain names to IP addresses, resulting in significantly lower load speeds.
It is important to note that while the DNS server is automatically picked on most occasions, your internet service provider may pick a DNS server close to your location to ensure faster and more efficient translation of domain names to IP addresses leading to a pleasant browsing experience.
Simply put a DNS server’s ability to resolve a query depends on your distance from the server and the traffic load on it. If you are looking for reliable DNS hosting services, our free and premium DNS hosting solutions are exactly what you need.
DNS Caching: Enhancing Internet Performance and Efficiency
Let’s understand the DNS cache and when you should consider flushing it.
DNS Cache Explained
Yes, low traffic loads on the DNS server and your geographical location impact load speeds. What if we told you DNS cache also plays a role here? Yes, that’s right. But first, we need to understand what a DNS cache is.
A DNS cache means information of past DNS lookups stored temporarily on a web browser or the operating system in your device. The DNS cache paves the way for a faster browsing experience as the copy of a DNS lookup helps your browser extract and present information efficiently.
DNS Flushing and Why It is Important
DNS flushing is important because of the same reason anti-toxins are important for our bodies – to flush out the lingering toxins. For instance, deleting the DNS cache will help you get rid of dangerous and compromised DNS records in case somebody tries to manipulate them.
Additionally, it safeguards your DNS records and prevents any suspicions of DNS poisoning. DNS flushing can also help you overcome domain resolution issues and other issues tied to outdated DNS records in your cache.
DNS and Its Role in Email Delivery: Ensuring Smooth Communication
There’s a strong reason why DNS is also known as the backbone of the World Wide Web. Without DNS, computers would be merely relegated to data devices that solely rely on numerical IP addresses. Did you know that the DNS also plays a crucial role in online communication and email delivery?
With around 4.26 billion email users worldwide, it is imperative to understand the relationship between DNS and email. An email address is linked with a domain name (the text that follows @ in an email address) which should match the IP address of the recipient’s email server to ensure the email reaches its correct destination. Additionally, the DNS is also responsible for giving the public key required to decode a sender’s DKIM signature. The DKIM signature is important to establish a sender’s identity.
Let’s get it straight. The Internet wouldn’t have been a fun experience for all of us without DNS. The last thing we would want is to type large numerical addresses to access websites. The good news is that we do not have to worry about that thanks to the DNS. While we have tried to simplify the DNS, its hierarchical structure, and its components, it is a complex system that keeps the internet ticking for billions worldwide.
How does DNS affect website loading speed and user experience?
As the number of DNS requests or DNS lookups made by a website increases, it reduces the loading speeds, resulting in a poor user experience.
Are there any limitations or restrictions on the length or format of domain names in DNS?
Each domain name is linked to different labels such as records, domain names, and zones. While the upper limit of each label’s length is 63 bytes, the label length of domain names cannot exceed 255 bytes.
Can DNS be used to block or restrict access to certain websites or content?
Yes, DNS can be used to block or restrict access to certain websites through DNS filtering.
How long does it take for DNS changes to propagate globally?
Typically, it can take anything between 24-48 hours for DNS changes to propagate globally. That said, it can even take around 72 hours in a few cases.
How to test DNS Functionality?
There are several ways to test DNS functionality. Some of the most common methods are checking the DNS settings via the command prompt, running nslookup, running the Test-DnsServer cmdlet test, and more.
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