When you decide to create a website, you brush up against the infrastructure of the internet – the basic apparatus that allows computers to be interconnected and share information with each other. DNS is a perfect example of exactly this type of thing – it's something that we use every day without even suspecting what it is.
What does DNS mean?
DNS, or the Domain Name System, is the way that computers find each other.
Think about it:
All the information we access is stored somewhere on a physical computer. All the metaphors we use about information floating in a cloud are just that – metaphors. In reality, there are banks of servers humming away, sending messages through physical coils of fiber-optic cable.
In order for this information to find its way from a server to your computer, smartphone, or whatever device you happen to be using, it needs to know where to go. And in order for your device to make the request for information to the right computer, it needs to know where to ask.
DNS allows the IP address to be translated into domain names, but that requires large databases of these names to show which IP address they correspond to. These databases need to be spread out all over the world to make sure that they can serve everyone and that they can't be knocked out in case of power outages or other unforeseen circumstances.
When you type a domain name into your browser, your computer asks the nearest DNS server what IP it matches. If the DNS server has this information stored in its memory (or cached), then it responds right away. If not, it asks up the chain of other DNS servers, finally reaching the root name servers, which are the ultimate databases, containing all the registered domains.
So what does this mean for my site?
Other than being quite interesting, the quality of DNS services can make a large difference for regular site owners.
The first thing to remember is that the system – the way that the information is routed and the way that it's secured – was created when the internet was still new. There was not commerce online, no private information, nothing that could be abused. That's changed.
While the infrastructure of DNS lookups has become much more secure, it doesn't hurt to have a little bit of extra security. Our lookups are engineered to be fast and secure, with DDoS protection and safeguards against cache poisoning – when DNS records are manipulated to take people to the wrong website.
Second, think about geographic location. Since information has to move physically, being closer is better. DNS hosting servers have to be geographically dispersed to ensure that people from all over the world can access your website.
Lastly, for those who want more control over things, you can edit what are called the DNS records – not all providers offer the same access to all of them. Using these, you can point your domain at different files, change the mail provider – all kinds of cool stuff.
If you're not already using our DNS hosting services, check them out here. Our DNS hosting is free – we like to think that it'll convince you that we're the way to go when it comes to our other services.