Let’s use this post as a bookmark of sorts. You really don’t need to know this, I just want to be able to point clients here when I need to for reference. That said shouldn’t we all keep on learning new stuff?
What is DNS?
This is a great place to start. You’ve seen the acronym in your “NoDaddy” dashboard I’m sure. DNS stands for Domain Name System. Seems simple enough. If I asked you that means and what it does you would probably say that it points the domain name somewhere and you are kind of right.
DNS simply converts a bunch of words to a number – that would be the words that make up your domain name (i.e. areweconnected.com) to an IP Address (as in 126.96.36.199).
An IP Address (Internet Protocol) is a series of numbers that corresponds to a…
Wait! STOP! We’re going down a rabbit hole!
Let’s make this DDS (Drop Dead Simple).
DNS is just a set of directions. That’s all.
Follow along here…
- You own a domain name. You can buy that name from anywhere (yes even at NoDaddy).
- I/You build a website (hopefully based on WordPress) on a server that you have secured space on (hopefully not at NoDaddy).
- You point the domain name via DNS to that website. Viola!
That’s it! People type in your domain name and like magic your site loads in their browser! That’s pretty simple, right? This is generally done via what are called Name Servers.
That might look like:
Ok, let’s make it a little more complicated. Let’s add email.
And it’s a big if. If you want to use email for the domain (like firstname.lastname@example.org) you’ll need an email server. Now, some hosting plans come with an email server. This might be included but the two are different. One server handles all the files that go to create your website and the other handles all your emails and replies and only those.
If you ARE NOT using email or your hosting plan comes with an email server you may simply point your domain name to the hosting account and EVERYTHING is directed to that.
If you ARE using email or plan to use email you’ll want an account to handle that. I use Google- what used to be called Google Apps, now is called G Suite. I pay $5/mo for Google to handle just my email.
That’s a smart thing to do. If at all possible you don’t really want to use a shared hosting provided email server.
Remember: If you point your domain to a hosting account via Name Servers it points everything that way. We don’t want that. We want to be able to point the website traffic one way and the email traffic another. Does that make sense?
So we forego the Name Server method and do something a little more complicated.
A RECORD / MX RECORD
An A Record (Address Mapping Record) sends only the website traffic to a specific IP (hosting account). So we can create an A Record on your domain registrar and it’ll point just the web traffic to where we’ve stored all the files that make up your website.
MX is for “Mail Exchange” and as you might guess it’s like the A Record but it sends just your email traffic to another location. That location is the server that is setup just to handle emails coming in and going out.
With an Email Server you can then create an email account(s) and then receive / send those emails to your email client via POP3 or IMAP settings.
PHEW! There might be a little more involved (C Name, SOA, ALIAS, or TXT Records) but just understanding that much will put you miles ahead and could stop you from making a serious DNS mistake.
NOTE: This is why, when I build a site for a client I always make sure I know what they are doing for email with the domain we’re building on.