What Is a Non Authoritative DNS Server?


Heather Bennett

A non-authoritative DNS server is a server that does not have the authority to provide the final answer to a DNS query. Instead, it acts as an intermediary between the client and the authoritative DNS server, helping to resolve domain names into IP addresses.

How Does It Work?

When a client makes a DNS query, it first contacts a recursive DNS resolver. The resolver then checks its cache for the requested domain name. If it doesn’t have the information, it sends the query to a non-authoritative DNS server.

The non-authoritative server doesn’t have direct access to the domain’s zone files but relies on another authoritative DNS server for the answer. It forwards the query to an authoritative DNS server responsible for that particular domain.

The authoritative server then checks its zone files for the requested information and sends back the answer to the non-authoritative server. The non-authoritative server, in turn, relays this response back to the recursive DNS resolver, which finally delivers it to the client.

Advantages of Non-Authoritative Servers

  • Improved Speed: Non-authoritative servers can cache responses from authoritative servers. This helps in reducing query times and improves overall performance.
  • Load Distribution: By caching responses, non-authoritative servers can distribute traffic evenly among multiple authoritative servers for a given domain.
  • Fault Tolerance: If an authoritative server goes down or becomes unresponsive, non-authoritative servers can still provide cached responses until the issue is resolved.

Limitations of Non-Authoritative Servers

  • Data Staleness: Since non-authoritative servers rely on caching, there is a chance that the information they provide may not be up to date. Changes made on the authoritative server might take some time to propagate to non-authoritative servers.
  • Limited Control: Non-authoritative servers can’t modify or update zone files directly. They depend on authoritative servers for any changes or updates.


A non-authoritative DNS server plays a crucial role in the DNS resolution process by acting as an intermediary between clients and authoritative servers. It helps improve speed, distribute load, and provide fault tolerance.

However, it has limitations in terms of data staleness and limited control over zone files. Understanding the role of non-authoritative servers is essential for anyone involved in DNS management and troubleshooting.

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