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How DNS Works

How DNS Works

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is an essential part of how the Internet works and is effectively a naming system for any resources connected to the Internet or a private network. A common analogy is that it operates like a phone directory for the Internet, translating human-friendly hostnames (eg. www.hostaway.net.au) into IP addresses (eg. 203.30.44.22).

When you access a website or send an email your computer performs a DNS lookup, so that it knows which IP address to request information from or send information to. All HostAway hosting accounts include our DNS management tool, found within the HostAway members panel. To enable this tool your domain name needs to be delegated to our nameservers, which are:

ns1.hostaway.net.au
ns2.hostaway.net.au
ns3.hostaway.net.au

This means that HostAway is the authorative nameserver for your domain name, therefore any DNS lookups for your domain name will be sent our way. Our nameservers will then respond to these queries with the DNS settings that have been selected with the DNS management tool.

You don’t have to use HostAway’s nameservers to have a hosting account with us – we can provide you with the IP address for any of our particular servers which you can enter into external DNS records.

DNS is a hierarchial system which means if your domain name expires it will effectively stop DNS lookups, as the domain can no longer resolve to an IP address. This will cause your website and emails to stop working and is why it is very important to renew your domain name before the expiry date.

Due to the billions of DNS requests being processed at any given time, networks often cache the results of a DNS lookup. This is why DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to fully take effect. If you’ve just visted a website your web browser, computer, network and Internet Service Provider can cache the IP address of that website. If the site owner changed their IP address 5 minutes after your visit it might take as long as 48 hours before the outdated IP address is ‘forgotten’ and the new one is looked up. Sometimes you can force your browser or computer to clear their cache (shift + F5 does it on most web browsers) however the records could be cached further up the chain.

If you need to make DNS changes but are uncertain of what to do or what effect it will have please give us a call – it’s always a good idea to double check when editing DNS records.

For a visual explanation of how DNS works please enjoy the video below: