What is DNS? and How Does DNS Work? (Explained for Beginners)

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Understanding the Domain Name System (DNS)

The Domain Name System, commonly referred to as DNS, is akin to the internet’s directory. It aligns human-friendly domain names, such as WP Think.com, with the distinct server ID where the website’s data is housed.

Visualize DNS as a vast directory for the internet. It pairs domain names with their respective digital markers known as IP addresses, much like a phonebook connects individuals’ names to their phone numbers. When someone types a domain name like WP Think.com into their device, the system locates the corresponding IP address, guiding them to the server’s physical location where the website resides.

The Mechanics of DNS

The internet is essentially a colossal network of interconnected computers. Each device on the internet is given a unique IP address, which is a numerical string separated by periods, such as, to distinguish it from others.

Remembering such numerical sequences to access your preferred websites would be cumbersome and impractical. Hence, domain names were created using letters to make website names memorable and user-friendly.

The DNS translates these domain names into IP addresses, directing your device to the correct server. Each pairing of a domain name and its IP address is known as a “DNS record.”

Here’s a simplified explanation of DNS operation in four steps:

1. When you wish to visit our site at www.WP Think.com, you type the address into your browser and press Enter. Your computer first checks if you’ve visited the site before. If the DNS record exists in your computer’s DNS cache, the lookup process is bypassed, and you’re taken directly to the site.

2. If the DNS record isn’t in your cache, your device queries your local DNS server, often provided by your internet service provider, known as a “resolving nameserver.”

3. Should the resolving nameserver not have the record, it forwards the request to a “root nameserver,” which is part of a global network responsible for maintaining DNS data. Once located, the DNS record is cached on your computer.

4. With the DNS record found, your device connects to the server where the website is stored, and www.WP Think.com appears on your screen.

For a more in-depth understanding, consider exploring our beginner’s guide on how domain names function.

The Role of Name Servers

Servers, which are specialized computers, make the internet operational by storing and delivering website content globally. A name server, or “nameserver,” is a server that holds all the DNS records for a domain name, providing DNS information upon request.

Nameservers are usually managed by your domain registrar or hosting provider. They each have an address and can store records for numerous websites. For instance, if your site is hosted on Bluehost, your nameservers might look like:


A domain name requires at least two nameservers: a primary and a secondary for backup. Some WordPress hosting providers, like WP Think, offer private nameservers:

NS0.WP Think.COM
NS1.WP Think.COM
NS2.WP Think.COM
NS3.WP Think.COM
NS4.WP Think.COM

Updating Your Nameservers

One of the DNS system’s advantages is that it allows site owners to transfer their websites without altering domain names. Top domain registrars provide tools for easy nameserver management.

It’s often recommended to register your domain with your hosting provider to avoid the need for domain transfers or nameserver changes. However, if your domain is registered with one provider and hosted with another, you can simply update your DNS nameservers to point to your web host.### Adjusting Nameserver Settings with Your Hosting Provider

If you’ve registered your domain through a service like Domain.com and your site is hosted by a renowned WordPress hosting company, altering your nameserver settings is a straightforward process.

Many hosting services for WordPress sites may provide you with cPanel access to oversee your hosting details. Let’s walk through the steps using Domain.com as an example to modify your DNS records:

#### Step-by-Step Guide to Update DNS Records

Begin by signing into your Domain.com account and proceed by clicking on the ‘Manage’ option.

Afterward, navigate to the ‘DNS and Nameservers’ section found in the menu on the left side.

You will then need to locate and select your domain name. Look for the ‘3 dots’ icon adjacent to your domain name and click on it to proceed.

The next step involves editing your nameservers. Simply click on the ‘Edit’ button to start this process.

At this point, you will be prompted to input your new nameserver details into the provided text box.

To finalize the changes, click on the ‘Submit your changes’ button, and the update will be complete.

Should you not have an account with Domain.com, the process to change nameservers can still be carried out through your web host or domain registrar’s platform. If the method to do so isn’t immediately apparent, consult the support documentation provided by your domain registrar or reach out to their customer service via email.

### Understanding the CNAME Record

#### Canonical Name Record Explained

A CNAME, or Canonical Name record, is a specific DNS record type that allows you to associate a domain name with another domain name, rather than directly with an IP address.

Consider you own the website example.com and have also secured examples.com. If you wish for examples.com to redirect visitors to your primary site, a CNAME record is what you would use. This setup ensures that traffic to examples.com is seamlessly directed to example.com.

#### Adding a CNAME Record to Your Domain

CNAME records are particularly beneficial when setting up a domain for use with a professional email service like Outlook.com or when configuring a branded email account through G Suite and Gmail.

To add a CNAME record, first log into your Domain.com account. Select ‘Manage’, then on the subsequent screen, choose ‘DNS and Nameservers’ followed by ‘Add DNS Record’.### Updating Your Domain’s CNAME Record

To modify a CNAME record, simply locate the record you wish to alter and select the “three dots” icon next to it. Proceed by clicking “Edit.”

Once you’ve accessed the editing interface, choose “CNAME” from the dropdown menu provided on the right-hand side. Fill in the necessary details in the designated fields.

Upon completing the input of the required data, finalize the process by clicking the “Add DNS” button. Your changes should now be in effect.

Should you encounter any difficulties in locating the settings to adjust the CNAME record within your hosting account, do not hesitate to reach out to your hosting service provider for assistance.

### Understanding MX Records

An MX record, short for Mail Exchanger record, is a type of DNS record that specifies which mail server is responsible for processing emails for a given domain.

For instance, if you set up an MX record with Outlook.com for your domain (your-domain.com), Outlook.com’s mail servers will manage all incoming emails for that domain.

### Steps to Insert an MX Record

Inserting an MX record is a straightforward task. Here’s how to add one to your domain using Domain.com.

Begin by logging into your Domain.com account. Navigate to “Manage,” followed by “DNS and Nameservers.”

Click on the “Add DNS Record” button, which is typically highlighted in blue.

From the list, select the MX record you wish to modify and click on the “three dots” icon to the right of it.

After making the necessary changes to the MX record, click “Update DNS,” and your task is complete.

If the option to modify MX records is not visible in your hosting account, consult your hosting provider for guidance on adding an MX record.

### TXT Records Explained

A TXT record is a form of DNS resource record. It often contains SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Key Identified Mail) records, which are used to attach an encrypted signature to outgoing emails.

These records enhance the reliability of your email by adding a layer of authentication to your mail server.

### How to Add a TXT Record

Adding a TXT record is beneficial, especially when utilizing third-party email services like G Suite or Outlook.com with your domain. Here’s how to add a TXT record using Domain.com.

Firstly, access your Domain.com account and select “Manage.” Then proceed to “DNS and Nameservers.”

Click on the “Add DNS Record” button.

Scroll to locate the TXT records section and click on the “3 dots” icon to the right.

After these steps, you should be able to input the necessary information for your TXT record and update your DNS settings accordingly.### Understanding DNS Management: A Guide to Modifications

When you need to update your DNS TXT record, simply navigate to the appropriate section, make the necessary changes, and confirm by selecting the “Update DNS” option.

### Exploring DNS Services: Free vs. Premium Options

The speed at which your website loads for visitors can be influenced by the proximity of DNS records to local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). These records are stored, or “cached,” by nameservers close to the user, facilitating faster access for others in the same area. For many small-scale operations, such as personal blogs or modest enterprises, the slight delay in DNS resolution, typically measured in milliseconds, is negligible. Consequently, these smaller entities often rely on the DNS servers supplied by their web hosting service or domain registrar.

For those seeking a cost-effective solution, there are complimentary DNS services available, like Cloudflare. They provide a swift DNS service with basic firewall protection at no charge. On the other hand, larger corporations might opt for a subscription-based DNS to benefit from advanced features such as guaranteed uptime, accelerated lookup times, traffic management based on geographic location, backup DNS options, enhanced security measures, and additional perks.

Here at WP Think, we’ve chosen DNSMadeEasy as our DNS service provider due to their reputation for being among the fastest in the market. We trust that this guide has been informative in explaining DNS and its functionality. For further insights, we invite you to explore the resources listed below.

### Further Insights and Resources

– Understanding the Distinction: Domain Name vs. Web Hosting
– The Essentials of Domain Names
– The Real Cost of a Domain Name: Expert Insights
– Step-by-Step: Clearing Your DNS Cache Across Platforms

By delving into these additional topics, you can expand your knowledge and ensure that your website’s DNS settings are optimized for performance and security.