The Domain Name System (DNS) and Nameservers for Dummies

DNS is a topic that could easily stretch on for thousands of pages.   At Tier.Net, we like to make things simple.   Think of this as a short and quick “getting started guide” to DNS and nameservers.

What is the Domain Name System?

The Domain Name System, like most protocols that comprise the internet as a whole, is a large network of clients and servers.   When an end user (client) types in a domain name, his DNS query is sent up the worldwide hierarchy of DNS servers (aka nameservers) until it finds an “authoritative” answer.   Simply put, within milliseconds, the end user is supplied with an IP address that directs his request to the proper server, and the end user gets his desired content long before he starts to think about what is happening behind the scenes!

Before DNS was introduced, computers would connect to each other through IP addresses. IP addresses are a unique string of numbers separated by dots devised to identify each device communicating via the Internet Protocol over a network.  Think of it like your street address.

Domain names are easy for humans to remember. However, the Domain Name System is required in order for computers or machines (who tend to prefer numbers over spoken words) to access websites via their IP addresses. The Domain Name System translates a name to its IP address(es) so that it will be convenient for users to remember and return to the sites.

More Details Please?

Software installed on a server to facilitate the transference of data in relation to the domain system is known as a DNS Server or nameserver. You can install DNS software on any machine used as a server. If you would like to install custom DNS software on a server, it typically requires VPS Hosting or a Dedicated Server, but Tier.Net can allow you to specify custom nameserver aliases with any hosting account.

From End to End

Let’s briefly describe a DNS query from end to end. When your residential internet connection establishes its internet connection, it likely automatically sets local DNS resolvers for itself.   These are your ISP’s DNS servers (aka nameservers). They are just like the ones at the other endpoint.   When you type in www.tier.net in your browser, your PC sends the request, “what is www.tier.net’s IP address?”, to your ISP’s DNS resolvers.   Your ISP will likely respond with the protocol’s equivalent of “I have no idea, but I might know who does”.   Since www.tier.net uses the “.net” domain extension, your ISP will hand off your request to the .net registry’s (ICANN) “root nameservers”.   There are several geographically redundant “root nameservers” around the world.   When the top level domain name “tier.net” was registered, we gave the registry information required to eventually redirect the request to an authority on the subject.   This is the process of setting your authoritative DNS servers.   We tell the .net registry where it can find the final authoritative nameservers for www.tier.net.   You can even create your own custom nameserver hostname.   This is the process of “registering nameserver hosts” or “adding DNS hosts”, a process that is required if you want to run your own fancy DNS servers such as ns1/ns2.yourname.com as an example.   Your request is forwarded up the chain to the final DNS authority and it finally returns a response in the form of an IP address.   It is passed back to the client (your PC) and data begins to flow in all of its glory.   It all happens within the blink of an eye.

We Make it Easy

Here at Tier.Net, we have decades of experience with DNS.   Whether you want to setup your own private label nameservers as a reseller or diagnose a complicated DNS issue, we have the solutions you seek.   Contact www.tier.net today for a free consultation!

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