What Does a DNS Server Do?


Heather Bennett

A DNS (Domain Name System) server is an essential component of the internet infrastructure that helps translate human-readable domain names into IP addresses. In simple terms, it acts as a directory service that allows users to access websites and other resources on the internet by typing in familiar domain names instead of complicated numerical IP addresses.

What is DNS?

DNS can be thought of as the phonebook of the internet. When you type a domain name like “example.com” into your web browser, your computer needs to know the IP address of the server hosting that website in order to establish a connection. This is where the DNS server comes into play.

DNS servers store a vast database of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. When you request a website, your computer sends a query to a DNS server asking for the IP address associated with the requested domain name.

How Does DNS Work?

The process of translating a domain name to an IP address involves multiple steps:

  1. Your computer first checks its local DNS cache to see if it has recently accessed the same domain name. If it finds a match, it uses the corresponding IP address and skips further steps.
  2. If there is no cached entry, your computer sends a query to its configured DNS resolver (usually provided by your ISP) which acts as an intermediary between your computer and the authoritative DNS servers.
  3. The resolver then sends a recursive query to one of the root DNS servers, asking for information about the top-level domain (TLD), such as “.com”.
  4. The root server responds with information about the TLD’s authoritative name servers.
  5. The resolver then sends another recursive query to one of these authoritative name servers, requesting the IP address of the domain name.
  6. The authoritative name server responds with the IP address, which is passed back to your computer through the resolver.
  7. Your computer can now establish a connection to the web server using the obtained IP address.

Types of DNS Servers

There are several types of DNS servers that work together to ensure smooth and efficient domain name resolution:

  • Root DNS Servers: These are the highest-level DNS servers that store information about TLDs, such as “.com” or “.org”. There are only 13 sets of root servers worldwide.
  • TLD DNS Servers: These servers store information about specific TLDs.

    For example, they would hold details about all domain names ending in “.

  • Authoritative DNS Servers: Each domain has its own authoritative name server responsible for storing information about that domain’s IP addresses and other DNS records.
  • Recursive DNS Servers: Also known as caching resolvers, these servers act as intermediaries between client devices and authoritative DNS servers. They cache frequently requested information to improve performance.

The Importance of DNS Performance

A fast and reliable DNS infrastructure is crucial for a smooth internet experience. Slow or unreliable DNS servers can result in longer website loading times, potential downtime, and frustration for users. This is why many organizations invest in high-performance DNS solutions or use third-party DNS providers.

In Conclusion

A DNS server plays a vital role in translating human-friendly domain names into machine-readable IP addresses. It acts as a directory service that facilitates internet communication by mapping memorable domain names to their corresponding server locations. Understanding the basics of DNS is essential for anyone interested in how the internet works.

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