DNS, the Domain Name System, is a standardized series of records that every domain has which let various programs and services interact with the domain. Specifically, it is a collection of records which direct the domain to function in certain ways.
Types of DNS Records
There are many types of records – some used very rarely – and these are the most common types:
The Address record (in IPv4 format), which is where the domain points to. This is typically used to point domains to web hosts and make a visitable website. It can also be used to forward a domain.
The Address record (in IPv6 format), also called Quadruple-A or simply Quad-A. IPv6 is a new and forthcoming protocol for DNS that has more possible addresses than the limited IPv4 format, which is quickly being depleted.
The Canonical Name record, used for when a domain is an alias of another domain (the canonical domain). While A Records can be used to forward to another domain, using the CNAME record allows you to present the whole website with a "masking" domain; that is, the URL does not update to the forwarded website – it stays as the domain with the CNAME record.
The Mail Exchange record, used for configuring email communication. MX Records allow email servers to identify the sender and recipients of email messages.
The Service Location record, a new alternative to MX records. SRV records define the location of servers for specific services.
The Nameserver Record, for identifying the nameservers the domain is using. Nameservers act as publically accessible directories to identify the domain, so while many DNS records are optional, have an NS record is mandatory for the purposes of establishing the owner and "home" of the domain.
The Text record, for leaving human-readable notes about the domain. Especially in the early days of domains, it was beneficial to leave notate bene about the domain for other administrators. TXT records are also sometimes used by programs to read specialized information, such as when using some Google domain services.
The Sender Policy Framework record. Sender Policy Framework is a system to validate email and prevent spamming. SPF data could alternately be stored in a TXT record.
How It All Works
For a quick example of how DNS works with a domain to connect a user to a website, watch this helpful video made by CIRA, the .CA registry:
To manage the DNS records of your domains, access your DNS via the domain details on any domain in your Domain Manager.
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