All about DNS

December 24, 2011

Technically speaking, the Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical distributed naming system for computers, services, or any other resource connected to the Internet or a network. DNS basically translates domain names (human-speak text-based names used to identify a website or Internet location) into IP addresses (strings of numbers used by every computer connected to the Internet to identify a website’s location and communicate with other computers and Web servers).

An often-used analogy to explain the Domain Name System is that it serves as the phone book for the Internet by translating human-friendly text-based computer hostnames into number-based IP addresses. For example, the domain name would translate as if we’re using Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and as 2620:0:2d0:200::10 on the newer Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

DNS assigns each IP address by taking into account the DNS records each domain name stores in a zone file stored on a DNS name server. Those records include information such as address (A) records, name server (NS) records, and mail exchanger (MX) records. Domain names point to the DNS name server holding its specific zone file in order to locate their zone files, which in turn replies with information to the queries against its database.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the organization responsible for overseeing the domain name systems of the Internet. Besides ICANN, each of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet known as top-level domain (TLD) is maintained and serviced technically by an administrative organization, operating a registry. A registry is responsible for maintaining the database of names registered within the TLD it administers. The registry receives registration information from each domain name registrar authorized to assign names in the corresponding TLD and publishes the information using a special service, the whois protocol.

Some domain name registries, often called network information centers (NIC), also function as registrars to end-users. The major generic top-level domain registries, such as for the COM, NET, ORG, INFO domains, use a registry-registrar model consisting of many domain name registrars[19][20] In this method of management, the registry only manages the domain name database and the relationship with the registrars. The registrants (users of a domain name) are customers of the registrar, in some cases through additional layers of resellers.


The DNS resolution process allows for caching of records for a period of time to provide a mechanism to reduce the load on individual DNS servers of the large volume of DNS requests generated for the public Internet. Because of this distributed and caching architecture, changes to DNS records do not propagate throughout the network immediately, but require all caches to expire and refresh, a process known as DNS propagation that typically takes between 24 and 72 hours, depending on several factors. When you register a domain name with RackNine, we automatically park the domain name and set its nameserver to our parking servers while DNS propagation takes place. If you activate the domain name or make changes to your website’s hosting, your hosting company provides the nameserver names or IP addresses where your domain name’s zone file is located. Use this information to update your domain name settings at your registrar. Once you’ve updated your nameservers or IP address, allow 24 to 72 hours for the new information to propagate through the Internet, after which visitors can reach your website using your domain name.

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