What Happens When Primary DNS Server Fails?


Heather Bennett

When the primary DNS server fails, it can have significant consequences for the functioning of a network. DNS, which stands for Domain Name System, is responsible for translating domain names into IP addresses.

This translation is essential for computers to communicate with each other on the internet. In this article, we will explore what happens when the primary DNS server fails and how it affects network operations.

The Role of the Primary DNS Server

The primary DNS server is the first point of contact for all DNS queries within a network. Its primary role is to maintain a directory of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. When a user enters a domain name in their web browser, the primary DNS server is responsible for resolving that domain name into an IP address.

Without a functioning primary DNS server, the translation process cannot occur, and users may experience difficulties accessing websites, sending emails, or connecting to other services that rely on domain names.

Impact on Network Operations

When the primary DNS server fails, several issues can arise:

  • DNS Resolution Failures: The most immediate impact is that DNS resolution will fail. Users attempting to access websites by their domain names will receive error messages or experience long loading times as their devices try to contact the non-responsive primary DNS server.
  • Service Disruptions: Many services rely on proper DNS resolution to function correctly.

    These include email servers, file transfer protocols (FTP), virtual private networks (VPN), and more. If the primary DNS server fails, these services may become inaccessible or experience severe performance issues.

  • Inability to Add New Domains: When a new domain is registered within a network, it needs to be added to the DNS server for proper resolution. In the absence of a functioning primary DNS server, adding new domains or making changes to existing ones becomes impossible.

Secondary DNS Servers

To mitigate the impact of a primary DNS server failure, organizations typically set up secondary DNS servers. These servers act as backups and can take over the responsibilities of the primary server in case of failure.

When the primary DNS server fails, secondary servers detect the failure and begin handling DNS queries. This ensures that DNS resolution continues to function, minimizing disruption for users. The secondary servers store a copy of the primary server’s data, ensuring that they can continue to resolve domain names even if the primary server is unavailable.


In conclusion, when the primary DNS server fails, it can have a significant impact on network operations. DNS resolution failures, service disruptions, and an inability to add new domains are some of the consequences that may arise.

To mitigate these risks, organizations employ secondary DNS servers that act as backups in case of failure. By ensuring redundancy in their DNS infrastructure, organizations can minimize downtime and provide uninterrupted services to their users.

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