It won’t take you long to realize that besides buying a domain name, you need to point your domain name to your host. Your domain registrar will have a DNS section to do this. In this article I want to quickly review what DNS is in as little techie terms as possible and go over a few record types that you’ll need to know.

What is DNS

DNS, or Domain Name Service, performs a process called DNS resolution that converts a domain name (host name) such as EXAMPLE.COM into an IP address, such as 192.168.1.1, which is basically a bunch of numbers separated by dots.

Every device, computer, server, and more is given an IP address to communicate on the Internet. In a way, an IP address is a nerdy street address that is necessary to locate your intended devices.

Without DNS, we would have to remember our favorite websites’ IP address instead of the name. Fortunately for us, DNS works behind the scenes, so we don’t have to do anything to tie the name and address together.

Common DNS Fields

When you start trying to manage your domain’s DNS for the first time, you’ll probably want to jump off a bridge because it seems so weird. Not to worry, once you get the hang of it, it won’t be so bad.

LabelDescriptionExamples
NameThis is where you label the owner of the record. It can be the root or a subdomain.@, www, etc.
TypeThe type of record you want.A, AAAA, CNAME
TTLThe time for the record to live. This is how long the record is cached. The default is 1h.5m, 1h, or in seconds
DataThe record's info.IP address

A Records

A Records are known as Address Records. Some places may refer to them as Address Records. A Records resolve host names to IP addresses, and that’s it. If nothing else, this is what you need to point your fresh domain name to the IP address of your web hosting.

Example:

@         A          1h        123.123.123.123

This basically says that when someone goes to their browser and types in your domain name without the www, it will resolve to your web hosting.

You can change the @ to be any other subdomain that you need to set records for. This is done in the same way, just a separate record.

Example:

Sub.example.com       A          1h        123.123.123.123

This doesn’t have to be on the same web server either. You can point subdomains to different servers. Most of you will not need to do this.

AAAA Records

This is the same as an A record but for IPv6 addresses. If you don’t know what that means or if your host hasn’t instructed you to get an AAAA record setup, don’t worry about it.

Example:

www    AAAA   1h        2002:db80:1:2:3:4:567:89ab

CNAME Records

CNAME refers to a Canonical Name Record. CName records only resolve to domains and subdomains, so text only. A CNAME record points one of your subdomains to a different domain name. This can also be different than your domain.

You would use this type of record if you use a 3rd party service that has a domain white label option. For example, you can use a CNAME record to direct store.example.com to your Shopify store or students.example.com to direct to your Teachable school.

Example:

www    CNAME            1h        example.com.

example.com. A          1h        123.123.123.123

MX Records

MX refer to Mail Exchange, which means email. MX Records resolve to text only and direct emails intended for your domain to the correct email server. You can only have one set of MX records on your domain. Email forwarding is setup from your email provider and not on the domain itself.

Your email provider can provide the correct MX Records to put in your DNS. If you don’t do this step, your emails will not deliver.

Example:

@         MX       1h        10 mailhost1.example.com.

@         MX       1h        20 mailhost2.example.com.

TXT Records

TXT Records simply refer to Text. Yeah, I know that was a stretch. These records don’t change anything on your domain like the other records do. They are searched by other services to confirm settings.

For example, if you want to use Google’s Search Console, one of the ways you can prove you own the domain is to add a string of characters to a TXT record. Then Google will search your domain for this record and verify that you are the domain’s owner and can proper change the DNS records.

Example:

A          TXT      1h        ”This is my domain.”

Conclusion

There are many more DNS record types. You can view Google’s About resource records page for more examples but the common DNS record types listed here will be enough for most of you.

So what do you think? Not too bad right? Let me know in the comments below.

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