Even if you aren’t familiar with DNS, you are already using it. Every time you visit a website or check your email, you are relying on DNS.
What is DNS?
Imagine DNS (also known as the Domain Name System) as a contacts section for the internet, with knowledge of every website there is, alongside their respective IP address. Every online device in the world has its own unique IP address, allowing it to be found by other internet-connected devices. DNS connects the domain entered by the internet user by translating it into the IP address that web browsers recognise. For example, if you wanted to visit a site called www.thiswebsite.com, DNS will take this domain name and translate it into its IP address so that you’re directed to the right website.
DNS: Step by step
Every time a DNS query is received, it must pass through several stages involving different pieces of hardware. Once your request is made from your device to your web browser, the query is processed by the DNS hardware rather than your personal computer or phone.
Your query is first received by the DNS recurser via the web browser. The recurser (a special server designed to handle DNS queries) is responsible for directing the next steps in translating the domain into an IP address. The root server narrows down the search for the right address, and the TLD server narrows the field still further by checking off addresses with the appropriate Top Level Domain, such as .com or .org. Finally, the authoritative nameserver will return the located IP address to the recurser, and you will be connected to your chosen site. The whole process takes only a moment or two. If you have the website cached on your device, it will load faster still as the DNS process can be bypassed thanks to already having the IP address stored.
As mentioned above, the DNS process happens independently of your devices, so there is no need to worry about maintaining or managing this service, even if you own your own website. You can explore the options for creating your own website at sites such as https://www.names.co.uk/domain-names.
DNS is an essential part of our everyday lives, but it remains something of an unsung hero, with many people totally unaware of its existence. Nonetheless, our browsing is dependent on this remarkable process.