What is DNS?

In this episode, Pam Sanderson, Director of Account Development, sheds light on the mysterious world of DNS, or the domain name system. DNS is similar to your car’s VIN number or your blood type — it’s information that is important to know, but many of us don’t know it offhand. While it’s not really necessary to memorize this information, it is important to know where to go to get it. This is also true for your DNS information.

First, Pam defines what a domain is: the address, or URL, of your website. Domains are registered at a registrar, such as GoDaddy or Namecheap. While you don’t ever own your domain, you can renew it as often as needed through your registrar. It is very important to know where you registered your domain. Other important components of your domain are nameservers and the servers everything points to. While one company may manage all three of these components, sometimes the components may be managed by three different companies.

When you have a domain, you also have records, which function like traffic controllers. Website traffic is controlled by an Address Record, or A Record. An A Record points to an IP address, which is a string of numbers that make up the actual address of a server. In other words, the A Record maps your domain name to the IP address.

A website may also receive email traffic. For example, you may have Outlook or G Suite set up at your domain, and your email addresses will end in the name of your domain (for example, @infomedia.com). Nameservers need to know where to put this email traffic, so this is where Mail Exchanger Records, or MX Records, come into play.

So, how do you find out where your A Records and MX Records are? Pam recommends using a tool like Who Is to view public DNS information. A website like Who Is is safe and does not give anyone the means to hack your website — it simply shows where the site is registered, where the nameservers are pointed, and where the main A Record and MX Records are. If you’ve purchased a brand new domain, your registrar also takes care of your nameservers. However, sometimes companies choose to move the nameservers to another service — for example, Infomedia uses Amazon AWS. So, a tool like Who Is helps determine where all this information is.

If you are having your site redesigned or are switching hosting companies, you’ll need to know where you registered your domain. If you do not know this information, you need to be able to find it. There are many cases when a former employee at a company may have purchased the domain and has the login information, but they do not share this information when they leave the company. This is why it’s important to know from Day 1 where your domain is registered.

In this episode, we’ve shared why DNS information is important. In the next episode, we’ll share how to find that information.

Mentioned In This Episode

About Carrie

Carrie Rollwagen is host of the Localist podcast and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Vice President of Strategic Planning at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find the Localist at @thinklocalist on Instagram and follow Carrie at @crollwagen.

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