If your trying to direct your domain name or asking yourself what is DNS you have come the right place. First off, domain name systems also known as DNS are the “pointers” for your domain name. They tell traffic hitting your domain name where to send visitors and email. At some point, you may want to change where your website is hosted or who controls your email. For that reason, I will breakdown the different types of DNS settings and what changes you can make to these pointers. Let’s get started!
All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.Earl Nightingale
Where Is My DNS?/Follow The Nameservers
In order to point your domain name or view your current settings we will need to find your zone file. This zone file is typically found where your domain name is registered. If you can not find your settings, you are most likely using 3rd party nameservers and will need to switch back to default settings or access your DNS through that 3rd party. If your not even sure where your domain is registered, you can look that information below on my WhoIs database.
3rd Party Nameservers/Off-Site DNS
If you get into your DNS settings only to find a message that your nameservers do not belong to the registrar do not panic. This just means that your DNS settings are held off-site and are controlled by a 3rd party such as Wix or CloudFlare. Some hosting providers do this so they can control your DNS remotely. In this case, you can typically view your current nameserver settings and they should give you a clue as to where your DNS lives. If you require further assistance with off-site DNS feel free to contact me.
DNS Structure/Point Your Domain Name
There are many different types of DNS records but you will only really be dealing with a handful for hosting and email purposes. Don’t be afraid to change these settings as you can always go back as long as you record what the current settings are.
A Records/Primary Pointers
First of all, A records are the primary pointers for your domain name. These records will always point to an IP address and tell web browsers where your website is hosted. There is usually only one with a host of @ but you can have several A records that are either redundant or allow the use of sub domains. If you see an A record with a host other than the @ symbol than you have sub domains setup. This means you can go to (enter subdomain).yourwebsite.com to see the alternate site.
CNAME records are all used to direct sub domain traffic. Similar to your A record these will direct sub domains to a URL instead of an IP address. A common CNAME record would be email, which will direct to your email server. As a result, this will allow you to go to email.yourdomain.com to get to your email server. Other common sub domains are shop. members. or dev. allowing you to have several sites using the same domain name. Here is an example
MX Records/Mail Exchange
Your DNS settings can do more than just point your domain name for web traffic. First of all, MX stands for mail exchange and this setting directs the flow of email. When an email comes in this setting tells the message where on the internet your mailbox lives. It is possible to have your email hosted on a completely different platform than your website is hosted. For this reason, DNS allows you to separate the traffic with these settings.
TXT Records/Verifying Domain Ownership
In addition to the ability to point your domain name, DNS can also help you verify your domain ownership. The TXT record allows a 3rd party to validate you can make changes to your DNS settings. A company trying to verify will give you a long string of numbers and digits you will enter. This then allows them to path to the DNS setting to see the record and confirm you are the owner. This is a common request when installing an SSL certificate or setting up an Exchange email account.
Just keep in mind, DNS settings are only pointers and tell traffic knocking on the door where to go. If you get stuck or have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out.