What is DNS
September 6, 2013

What is a DNS server?

While this may seem like a pretty straightforward question, it can’t be answered in just a few sentences. Rather, let’s go back to the basics, where the Internet began.

In the beginning, computers communicated using long series of numbers (IP addresses) to describe themselves. This became troublesome very quickly, so the early “fathers and mothers” of the Internet developed a system to attribute a domain name to each of these IP addresses.

These numbers and names had to be stored somewhere that was accessible to the entire Internet, so that’s when the first DNS server was built. Simply put, a DNS server is a computer (actually there are a bunch of these but we can get to that later) that holds parts of the database that contains all the IP addresses and their corresponding domain names for parts of the Internet.

When you type a website into your browser, normally you’ll be connected to your desired page within a few milliseconds. This makes a lot of people think that there aren’t that many steps or jumps between your computer and the server that hosts your desired website.

Wrong! Your query will end up taking hundreds of different jumps in between, and then is has to come all the way back to your computer. So let’s break it down…

Ok, maybe that was a little more complicated than you expected, but DNS is an amazing system that’s kept the world online since the dawn of the Internet! That’s awesome right?

Now here’s where it gets tricky

There are actually two different kinds of DNS servers: Recursive DNS Servers (or Caching Servers) and Authoritative Servers (what DNS Made Easy uses). In a nutshell, Authoritative DNS servers store the “maps” of your domain names to IP addresses. Recursive DNS servers ask the authoritative servers for that so-called map on behalf of their clients, and then store the results for a fixed period.

This is a very basic understanding, but to learn more you can check out our blog where we dive even deeper into the differences and benefits of using either system.

Let’s combine it all

So every time you type a website’s URL into your browser and milliseconds later, you’re connected to their homepage… what you’re actually doing is connecting with dozens (sometimes thousands) of different computers and servers until you finally reach the Root Servers. These servers are really special, because they hold all of the domain names and their corresponding IP addresses.

When you go to a website, you create a query which travels all the way to these root servers and asks what the IP address is for the domain you’re trying to connect to. DNS is the system that translates these domains into IP addresses, and then back again to a domain when it is finally returned to the querying client.

This system is what runs the modern world, everything from using a credit card to sending a text message. DNS saves you from having to memorize those long IP addresses, saving you time, brain power, and when done right you can even save money!