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As a beginner may not know about the Domain Name System and a DNS definition would be helpful.  

In this article, I explain what DNS means and how it relates to DNS servers, web hosting and more importantly your website. 

Domain names are an easy way to identify one or more IP addresses.   The Domain Name System keeps all these IP addresses (a bunch of numbers and dots) and domain names straight.  So that only one domain name, IP address and website are all linked together. 

Was that still a little too technical? Let’s go through this is small steps. 

Definition of Domain Name System

The Domain Name System (DNS) is fundamentally a way to track and standardize domain names,  similar to an address book or phone book.

Think of how your cell phone stores phone numbers as a name, such as spouse or best friend.  Once programmed, your phone keeps the correct person’s name linked to the correct phone number. 

When I ask my phone to call my husband, I expect to talk to my husband, not my mom, my best friend, my coworker and so on. 

Similarly, the domain name system traces the name a user types to find a website to the IP address that a computer needs to locate the same website. 


Why is a DNS necessary? 

Simply, because computers and people don’t speak the same language. 

People recognize domain names with real words, but computers, devices, and machines need IP addresses to gain access to websites. 

Related Content: For more details about domain names, I recommend reading –  What is a Domain?

Domain-Name-Search

The worldwide web is a huge interconnection of computers that depends on computer languages to find, manipulate, and share information.  

The system’s organization ensures commands run smoothly and fast. So the DNS translates the domain name to the correct IP address rot be delivered. 

Internet traffic and DNS have been studied extensively. It has been called the world’s most distributed database because millions of computers implement the Domain Name System.

Without DNS servers, the internet would be a big jumbled mess before you could realize it! 

Think about what would happen if every cell phone started to jumble the phone numbers and people linked to them.  


What is the Domain Name System?

As I said, the  Domain Name System is like the phonebook app on the phone. It is easier to remember a person’s name than their number. 

Related Content: For more information on domain names read this article “What is a domain name?

Accordingly, it is easier for a person to recall the domain name, not an IP address. 

Just as a phonebook keeps and organizes a directory of the contacts, the DNS does the same for domain names and connects them to the Internet Protocol addresses. 

The DNS ensures that when you register a domain name that it is reserved only for your website.  

After a user registers a new domain or updates the DNS servers, propagation takes typically 12-36 hours. 

In other words, that is how long it will take for the domain name to be accessible on the internet. 

Need to register your domain name?  I will walk you through it as a portion of the Build a Website Course!


DNS versus IP explained

Let’s cover the difference between DNS and IP and how the two interact.

As I said, computers speak to each other in computer language. They identify each other by an IP address.  To us, that’s an address with a lot of numbers and dots. 

The Internet Protocol (IP) determines the laws for the IP address and routes data from source hosts to destination hosts.

There are two types of IP addresses – Static and Dynamic. The former is a permanent address allocated by an administrator whereas the latter is a temporary address allotted by the server. 

The DNS, on the other hand, is the system that facilitates the translation of user input to machine-readable language, saving the user the stress of knowing how to implement this. 

The Domain Name System does the work for us, linking a domain name to an IP dress.  So we get to remember www.catchywebsite.com instead of dots and numbers (172.16.254.1)


What is a DNS Server?  What are they and why are they used?

computer servers

A DNS server is a computer that keeps the domain name and connects (or points) the website to the domain name. The primary purpose of the server is to act as a middleman between the user and the computer.   

DNS Servers run the software and communicate with each other to keep all the IP addresses and hostnames straight.  

You type the domain name (or website) in the browser and the server translates that to an IP address. 


What is the purpose of DNS servers?

Your domain registrar or web host generally delivers DNS servers.   Or any corporation may set up and own their server. (think Google).  

If you are reading this you will likely be relying on a company that has the DNS server for you.   That’s just one of the many benefits of having DNS servers. Here are more:

  • A DNS is the only system that can help you surf the internet and ensure things run smoothly.   So there is not a major virtual traffic jam. 
  • When you have a website, the DNS server points the URL or domain to the correct location.  All the files the create the website can be displayed when someone types in your domain name. 
  • In the opposite direction, from home the servers help you connect from your home wifi or internet service provider to each website that you type in the URL.  Like directions to someone’s house or business, help you arrive at the right place. 
  • The servers boost web security and cyber safety. The servers are designed for security purposes. They control any attempts to hack into your website files or your machine.
  • Using a server to translate domain names and IP addresses relieves us from memorizing all those numbers in an IP address.  That’s a big beenfit to business branding!

What is DNS Hosting and is it the same as Web Hosting?

Many people tend to get confused when differentiating DNS hosting and web hosting.

The DNS host is the company that provides the DNS server.  They reserve your domain name, connect it to the IP address and point the two to each other. 

Similar to reserving your home address to a specific GPS coordinate, so that people know where to visit you. 

On the other hand, web hosting provides a site’s website address with server storage space. 

A website is built of many data files that need to be stored safely and displayed on the internet.  

With the home comparison, a website is like the structure of the house that is built at a location.  

In the fewest possible words, DNS hosting is what links a name to a website, and web hosting is the space where the site’s files are. 

A significant reason why a lot of people get confused by the two is that a many providers offer both. 

To separate them, keep in mind that DNS hosting allows you to access the website, but does not host it (that is what web hosting is for).

Related Content: If you need help walking through this step of building a website – I have a free course for you.  I walk you through the steps of registering a domain name, setting up hosting and building a website.  


Who is my DNS Provider?

More often than not, when you manage your own website, you will find it necessary to update or make changes to your DNS records. 

For example, when adding Send Policy Framework (SPF) records, which is the information that relates to sending email from your website, you will need to know your DNS provider.

Most likely, your DNS provider is the company that you registered your domain name with.   

One of many online tools for looking up your DNS provider is https://whois.domaintools.com

Who is domain tools to look up DNS provider

Go to https://whois.domaintools.com

Type the URL or domain name for your website such as www.mybusiness.com

Validation is required for the full data set.  So go to the bottom of the first page and complete the reCAPTCHA.

You will be shown a page with more information than you know what to do with! 

Just some of the information provided consists of the domain, the IP address, and domain registrar, and the web host – this is how you know your DNS provider. 


Conclusion

All the technical jargon can be very confusing to the beginner.   I have written many articles just to help.  Here are a few related resources just for you:

Dictionary for Bloggers

What is a Domain

What is a Blog

How to build a website- step by step for beginners

In conclusion, the Domain Name System is crucial for the working of the worldwide web and devices connected to it.   

I hope that I answered your questions What is the Domain Name System and given you a basic DNS definition.    

Please ask questions in the comments (or email me) and I will do my best to answer – or like any good instructor – find the answer. 

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