What is DNS?

DNS (Domain Name System) is the component of the Internet that converts human-memorable domain names (such as mywebsite.com) into computer-readable addresses.

All computers and devices that are connected to the Internet have a numeric IP address (for example, 64.0.32.10), but long lists of numbers can be difficult to remember! Domain names are preferable as they’re more memorable – DNS is the system that matches automatically one form of address to the other.

DNS uses a range of technical terms that can be confusing for those new to web hosting. We have a range of knowledge base documents to help you understand the basics of DNS and ensure your domain records are correctly configured.

The following is a list of common DNS terms and definitions that you’ll quickly encounter when managing your domains:

Domain: Identifies resources on the Internet such as computers and networks. Most commonly it’s the label used to identify and access websites.

Domain Name System (DNS): The naming system used for computers  and other Internet hosted resources. It translates human-memorable domain names into numeric IP addresses – used to locate network resources on the Internet.

Name server (or nameserver): Nameservers are computers that perform the translation of human-memorable domain names to their numeric IP address equivalent. The nameserver is usually owned by the company where  the domain has been registered (domains registered with HostPapa use nameservers called ns1.hostpapa.com and ns2.hostpapa.com), but if you have registered your domain with a third-party registrar you can use their nameservers.

Zone File: A zone file is simply a file that stores your domain’s DNS settings. It consists of various “records” that define addresses for the servers hosting your website and other resources – such as email. Depending on the HostPapa service you’re using, you can use the Zone Editor in the HostPapa Dashboard to make changes to the zone file – or alternatively – the Zone Editor available in My cPanel.

A Record: An A record points your domain name to a specific computer on the Internet holding the files and folders that comprise your website. The value of an A record is always an IP address (such as 66.43.45.1) and multiple A records can be configured for one domain name. A records can also be used to define the location for subdomains (for example – shop.mywebsite.com). This allows website resources to be spread across multiple computers.

CNAME Record: CNAME records (standing for Canonical Name) are also used to direct subdomains to computers on the Internet – but use server names for identification rather than IP addresses. CNAME records allow an administrator to point multiple systems to one IP address without specifically assigning an A record to each host name. If your server IP changes, you only have to change one A record’s IP address to update all associated records.

MX Record: MX records (standing for Mail Exchanger) point your domain name email to an email provider. You can have many MX records for a domain. The mail server will attempt to contact them in numeric order – starting at the lowest number. MX records must point to a domain and never point directly to an IP address.

TXT Record: Provides text information to sources outside your domain. TXT records historically have been used to contain human readable information about a server or network. Common uses for TXT records are email security features such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys (DK), and DomainKeys Identified E-mail (DKIM).

For further questions, or if you need help, please open a support ticket from your HostPapa Dashboard. Follow this link to learn how.

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