What Are DNS Records?

You may have heard terms like SPF, MX, A, AAAA, CNAME, TXT, but you don’t really know what they mean, or what they do. This article will take you through each of the common DNS records, and what each of them does. DNS Records are used on almost every website, so this might be a good thing to learn! (And you don’t have to memorize them, as you can always bookmark this page for later).

What are DNS records?

DNS records are used to manage your domain and its various services. For example, some DNS records help Google verify your domain, while others make sure that your domain’s email gets to where it belongs. DNS records are used when people visit your website, and they help tell the browser where to find the files for your site, if any redirections need to be made, and so much more.

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Where can I find or manage my DNS records?

You can manage your DNS with your DNS zone manager. Your DNS zone manager is the company that you have your domains nameservers set to. For example, if you use the default nameservers that came with your domain, you can manage your DNS with your domain registrar. If you have your nameservers set to your web-hosting provider, you can manage your DNS with them. Another popular way to manage your DNS is to use Cloudflare, a popular CDN.

What is TTL?

We will get to the types of DNS records in a bit, but first, we thought that you might see this term used a lot when you are setting up your DNS records, but what does it mean? Although TTL is the abbreviation for our website (Which may or may not have been on purpose), this TTL has nothing to do with us. TTL stands for “Time To Live”, and it is used to make sure that information (Specifically DNS records) does not stay out on the web forever.

The TTL of a DNS record is just like the caching period on your website’s files. For example, once the cache expires on website files, the browser no longer uses its cached files but instead re-downloads a fresh copy from the servers. The same thing goes for DNS records. Once the TTL time is up, the information is no longer considered valid and has to be refreshed from the origin server. Now, let’s take a look at some of the DNS records and what they accomplish for your site.

The “A” Record

The A record is the most popular (Just like in school!), and one of the most common DNS record, as the majority of websites use it. The A record is used to point a domain to an IPv4 address, informing a browser what IP to visit to gather the correct files from. For example, if you have your DNS managed by Cloudflare, and you create a subdomain with your hosting provider, you will create an A record with Cloudflare’s DNS system pointing to the IP address of your hosting account. This record will tell browsers that the files for the subdomain are not hosting with Cloudflare (The DNS zone provider) but with your web hosting provider. If your webserver has an IPv6 address, see the AAAA record below.

The “AAAA” Record

The AAAA record is the same as the A record, but uses an IPv6 address instead of an IPv4 address.

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The “CNAME” Record

CNAME records are used to create domain aliases. Domain aliases are used when multiple subdomains should share the same content. For example, If you want blog.your domain.com to be an alias of blogging.mydomain.com (So blogging.mydomain.com is hosting the files, but they can also be accessed from blog.mydomain.com), you will use a CNAME record. CNAME records are commonly used for domain verification, and for subdomain aliases.

The “MX” Record

MX stands for Mail Exchange, so it only makes sense that this record is used for email! When you create an email address (Or multiple) for your domain, you will often do so with a third-party company such as Google Workspace or Zoho Mail. When you do that, mail servers need to know where your emails should go, and that’s what the MX record tells them! Different email providers may have more than one mail server, so you may need to configure multiple MX records. Make sure you follow the instructions from your mail provider carefully when setting ths up.

The “SRV” Record

The SRV record (Or service record) is used to define the location (Otherwise known as the port number) of a series of servers. SRV records are used to ‘plug-in’ services to a port of your domain. For example, FTP uses port 21 and FTPS uses port 22. Most website owners and developers will never have to use SRV records.

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The “TXT” Record

TXT records are simply text information that is stored using the DNS system. The TXT record provides you with the ability to connect other services to your domain. TXT records can help verify the identity of your domain (Sort of like an ID), or to help an application out with specific information (Like email validation text). SPF, DKIM, and DARMRC are all types of TXT records.

The “CERT” Record

The CERT record (Or the Certificate record) stores public-key certificates for your domain. Similar to the SRV record, most website owners and developers will never use this record.

The “PTR” Record

The PRT record (Or pointer record) converts an IP address into a recognizable domain name. It is used to check if the server matches the domain it claims to be. Otherwise known as a reverse DNS check, it’s an extra security measure to protect yourself, and your domain. PTR records are primarily used for security validation, and most website owners and developers never use them.

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The “SOA” Record

The SOA record stores information about the DNS zone for your domain, such as the person or company responsible for your zone. Every DNS zone must have an SOA record, but most people never come into contact with it unless they are in full control of the DNS zone for their domain.

How to check DNS records on other sites?

You might be interested in what records other websites use if you are searching for a good mail provider, or are just interested in general. There are many tools that can be used to find the DNS records that other websites use. For example, you can use our online DNS checker or this amazing online DIG tool.

Final Summary!

DNS records are the key to having a smooth-running website. If we confused you (Because this can be quite confusing!), be sure to send us a letter. Have an amazing day!

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Article by Tinkerman