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The Domain Name System (DNS) is a crucial part of the web we use every day. It works transparently in the background, converting human-readable website names into numerical IP addresses that your computer can read and understand. When you purchase your hosting, the IP addresses of your allocated servers are the IP addresses that the DNS will point users to when they search for for your domain. An example of this is Google. If you want to visit Google, you just need to enter google.com into your web browser’s address bar. However, your computer doesn’t understand where “google.com” is because the scenes, the Internet and other networks use numerical IP addresses. One of the IP addresses used by Google.com is 172.217.0.142. If you typed this number into your web browser’s address bar, you’d also end up at Google’s website. However, IP address are not easy to remember, so the DNS allows us to instead type in google and will then direct us to that IP address. The DNS is able to do this through records that it can look up on a system of linked DNS servers across the Internet. Each domain, after you purchase it, will have DNS records associated with it, and it is these records that allow for your domain to point to it’s servers and your site to function. The main records that you need to know about are Nameserver, Cname records, MX records, and A records.

Name Servers

A Name Server (also spelled, nameserver) keeps record of your domain name’s DNS entries. Essentially they are the names of the servers where your website data sits.  Each domain name must have at least two name servers. The first name server is the primary server, however if the primary server is not responding then the secondary name server is used to resolve the domain name.

CNAME Records

A CNAME record is essentially an alias for your domain name. What this means is that when someone types in the CNAME record into their browser, they will then be directed to your primary domain. An example of this is say you have a domain name of mysite.com, will you will still want users to be taken to your site even in they type in www.mysite.com. So to make this happen www.mysite.com is created as a CNAME record.

MX Records

A MX (mail exchange) record is a type of DNS record that specifies a particular mail server to handle email for a particular domain. This is how businesses have email addresses such as [email protected] The server is purchased through a provider and then the MX record defines the server that then handles the email. What is important to know about MX records is, if you are transferring a domain to a new hosting provider, once you change the nameservers and have switched hosting, you will then need to provide the MX records to the new hosting provider so the email can still function. 

A Records

An A (Address) record maps a domain name to the IP address of the computer hosting the domain. This isn’t so much relevant to you as designer as it is to your hosting provider. As we discussed in previous courses, in order to have a working site your domain must be hosted somewhere, and to do this you specify the nameservers associated with your hosting provider. Well, your hosting provider’s nameservers will have A records that point to the IP address of the servers that hold your websites data. As mentioned above the isn’t really relevant to you as a designer and you probably won’t need to do anything with them, but whenever you look at the DNS records of a client you will still see them, So it is still important to know what they are.