IT Support 101: What are DNS Records?
Updated: May 10
DNS or domain name server. It may seem not very easy because it is. Technically, of course. Managing it or administrating, it is simple. Anyone can do it, but it is a skill. You can go through a wizard and have it done, no big deal. But there are other uses of your DNS records. We are sure you are familiar with the big names such as GoDaddy and Host Gator. Our simple tutorial here or explanation aims to help you better understand the relevance and importance of types of DNS records to your needs. If done right, it is an SEO boost for your web page. One mistake would penalize your SEO in one way or the other.
What is a DNS registrar?
Ultimately, ICANN or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit organisation is the authority on domains. They are in charge of monitoring who has the rights to their domain and control the domain registrars accredited to them. GoDaddy, for example, is a domain registrar.
GoDaddy purchases a registrar license annually from ICANN for the right to disseminate and distribute domains to users and organisations such as yourself. They are accredited by ICANN, so neither you nor I can register a domain without them. In any case, ICANN is a fantastic organisation that manages these registrars for us and controls them. Of course, anyone has the right to purchase a domain and auction them off to the highest bidder. It is an open market.
What are DNS Records?
So you have purchased a domain from a registrar. Let's say it is abc.com. Please do not click on that website name; it is just an example, for people to see your website, which is hosted by your hosting provider, say Wix or Wordpress or wherever. Your website is technically an IP address. As in, your hosting provider attaches your website to an IP address, say 188.8.131.52.
A domain name server or DNS provider points or redirects all request made to abc.com directly to the IP 184.108.40.206. It also effectively masks your website IP address and make your site appear to be sitting on abc.com, which is essentially the purpose of DNS records, to allow for administration and control of where your domain points. Amending these records manipulate your domain to do various functions like email, CDN and websites. Let's have a look at the different types of records and what they do shall we?
What are A and AAAA DNS records?
Exactly what we said earlier. An A record points your domain to an IP address. An IPV4 address to be exact. AAAA record is the same thing, but for websites that have the all-new IPv6 addresses. If you are unsure what IPv6 is, it is quite simple; we are running out of IPv4 addresses, so we had to invent a whole new bunch of them to give out. That is pretty much what this is—lousy planning. But yes, IPv6 will be used more and more as time goes by. And this time it will be a while before we run out of IPv6 addresses.
What are CNAME DNS records?
Now here is where DNS records start to become very very useful for IT Support beginners like yourselves. Say your website hosted in China. But you wish to target a global audience and loading a site on the other side of the globe is going to take a very very long time. So what do you do? How can you solve this problem? That is what CNAME or canonical name records are. You can have a CDN or content delivery network that already has loaded your website for you in its servers around the globe cache your website.
By cache, we mean pre-load your site—kind of like a pizza delivery service. You can call the hotline, and they will deploy the pizza shop nearest to you to prepare and deliver the pizza to you. Get it? Same goes for the website; a CDN will load your site or pizza. And have it on standby within servers all around the globe. So when you try to load that website hosted in China, it will merely use the CDN address you have input to the CNAME record to load your website from the nearest physical location to you—making it load a whole lot faster. Cool right? And that is why you are here to learn.
What are MX DNS records?
Email, pretty simple and straightforward. You want to appear professional and not only want your domain to direct traffic to your website. You also want your email to be email@example.com, for example. You want it to look professional to get the complete feel of your domain to your users. That is what MX records are. They point your email service provider to your domain and allow you to map your domain as your email addresses. Many providers efficiently do these for you as a service, but you can do this yourself and save much money. It is straightforward to set up, and there are plenty of providers like g.suite or Microsoft exchange that is great for standard users.
What are NS records in DNS records?
Please do us a favour. Do not touch these unless you know what you are doing. NS records or name server records are best left undisturbed; it has to point your name server to your domain, allowing you to manipulate the DNS records and change them to your liking. But do trust us when we say, if possible, keep this as it is. Since you are paying your registrar, they will only help you if the name server is under their control. If you switch this to another or allow third-party providers like WiX to take control of these, do take note that your registrar support team may not be able to help you amend any mistakes or solve any issues within your record if things go wrong. So be very wary with this and not touch your NS records at all.
What are TXT DNS records?
TXT records are very, very important. You need to manipulate these for any third-party services, like google analytics, for example. Yes, you can have many of these meta tags put into your website, but these may not necessarily work very well. A TXT verification record, like a verification number for Google Search Console, gets you much more accurate and reliable numbers.
Since they get information from the activity at the level of your domain, basically anyone requesting from your domain name can be clocked and added to your page view count. You can add SPF records to your domain; this is a verification level record added as a TXT record. What it does is allow websites to know where your email is coming from a reliable source.
In your case, your mail server. These can prevent your emails from ending up inside spam inboxes; many spam filters allow emails with good TXT records and verification records input into them. Do you see how DNS records can make or break your business? Imagine an email ending up in your potential client's inbox as opposed to their spam inbox, which would add credibility to your service and allow your potential client to read your marketing email and subscribe to your service, which removes much frustration when it comes to new clients you email to, and they do not have to look for your email in their spam or thrash inbox. Credibility added.
What are MISC DNS Records?
There are other notable mentions here, like SRV Records, mostly used for Active Directory really, nothing you should worry. If you are dabbling with Active Directory, you have already hired professionals who should be handling this aspect of the work. The rest of the DNS records are not necessary, not at this moment. They have their uses. But for a simple website and domain setup, what is shared is more than necessary. But do retake note on TXT records and how important they are for website verification, which is critical information for your marketing team. Registering with many webmaster tools and other analytic sites allow for search engines to find and index your website much more straightforward. Which, in turn, does wonder for your SEO or search engine optimization?
So to conclude, DNS records are elementary and straightforward if you know what you are doing. And we hope you enjoy this read as much as us writing it. Again, thank you for reading 'IT Support 101: What are DNS Records?' . We love you!