What is DNS and How It Works (Explained with DNS Workflow Illustration)

In Computer Networking Skills, Computer Skills

Every computer can connect to the other devices through internet by using its IP address. So, when you type a website address and load it into your browser, your computer is accessing to another computer with an IP address. But what is DNS and what the connection between DNS and the IP addresses of websites.

Naturally, it is not easy for us to remember the row of IP address numbers. Furthermore, we there would be some IP addresses we visited every day. This is where a Domain Name System plays a very significant role.

DNS Functions

DNS stands for Domain Name System which here we can analogize it as a phone book on the internet. In brief understanding, DNS is a collection of Hostnames (domains) and IP Addresses. Those data set are required by the DNS to perform its functions as the translator of IP addresses to hostnames (domains) and vice versa.

That way, we are made easier to be able to connect to all types of websites by simply remembering their domain hostnames. Without DNS you need to type a long short of IP address numbers set to access a certain website.

In other words, Domain Name System serves to translate the IP address of a server computer’s IP address to get to a domain or vice versa with the aim to allow users to memorize and access information from certain servers.

How DNS Works

DNS requires some additional programs to be able to run, one of which is resolver. A resolver is an additional program for every client computer can connect to a DNS server.

A commonly used resolver program is a web browser or mail client. So, in order your computer can access the DNS server, you must first install a web browser or mail client on your computer. Some popular web browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari.

Domain Name System Workflow

For a more clear DNS understanding, the following is an illustration of the DNS workflow when a client computer accesses a certain website address on a browser.

DNS Workflow: How DNS Works

  1. The client computer requests the IP address of a website to the local DNS server
  2. The local DNS server will look into the database and cache it.
  3. If the DNS find the cache, the DNS server then will directly provide an IP to the browser app. If the DNS doesn’t find it, the server will then contact other available DNS.
  4. After obtaining the IP address, the local server will save it as a cache so that if the client computer wants to contact again, the server is no longer need to contact other DNS. Othe DNS requests occur if there’s no data or cache found on the local server.
  5. The IP address is assigned to the browser so that the browser can open the published website in the destination IP.

After figuring out how DNS works, there would be some important networking points you need to know. There’s a party who is responsible for bringing all the DNS servers together so that the DNS Server knows their existence. Domain Name System can contact other DNS servers appropriately as they know the Root Server. The following is how to figure out the domain hierarchy mapping.

DNS - domain hierarchy mapping illustration.

  • The Server Root stores the IP addresses and hosts information of all domains under it.
  • Dot .com only store IP addresses and hostnames information only under it.
    ‘.com’ doesn’t store the information of ‘.us’ domains.
    To find the IP address of example.com.au, the ‘.com’ DNS will contact the DNS above it, which is Root DNS.

In conclusion, when the IP address that you are looking for is not found in the local DNS server, the local DNS server then contact the DNS server above it and so on until the IP address is found.

How to Use DNS

DNS can be applied to the router as a remote DNS for the computers under the router network. Or, you can use DNS directly in your PC’s control panel, or on your modem configuration if you are using a modem.

Take into account that, hackers commonly engage DNS to attack client computers and websites. There are many types of hacking techniques that use Domain Name System such as phishing, MITM attack, and DNS hijacking. So, for a personal privacy and security reasons, you can use one of the best private browsers to access the internet. Then, if it’s possible, check the computer security and remove malware from the computer you are using.

The most widely used Domain Name System is Google DNS; and Google DNS is very familiar because its speed is good very easy to remember as well. However, you may also use other DNSes in case the DNS you are using prevent you from opening some certain domains.

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