What is DNS and What is Web Hosting?
DNS stands for Domain Name System and represents a database of all websites linked to Internet. The DNS helps users to successfully connect with the website they are looking for by translating the name of their names into numbers. These numbers are unique for each machine/website linked to the Internet and are called IPs.
While possibly an oversimplification for advanced users, the basic concept is the content for a website like DomainName.com might be stored on a connected internet computer with an address if 22.214.171.124. So the DNS system allows us to easily remember and communicate DomainName.com instead of 126.96.36.199.
Prior to a uniform domain name system, each person might have their own nicknames for different IP addresses, like “That domain Name Site”, “DN” “Joe’s Computer”. Imagine post-it notes and a world where routers and devices would all have to read our mind as to what our nickname was for different IP addresses.
With the legacy root servers keeping one and only IP address for each domain name, and all devices having access to the same list, the existing internet is usable by everyone, anywhere.
These IPs are the official names the servers recognize. So, every time a website is searched from a computer, the DNS translates the name we have given to this website, for example, google.com into its unique IP number (IP address) so the servers can understand our query.
In more human-friendly terms, the DNS translates our words of our queries into digits so the servers can understand what we need.
People know each other by name, link between by sharing their addresses and social media nicknames. Similar to this, the devices on the Internet recognize each other and link between solely by using digits (IPs).
Thanks to the DNS servers there is no need for us to store and memorize IP addresses which can be longer than 20 characters.
So, how exactly the DNS is doing it?
In order to successfully translate our query and in return to load the correct webpage, the DNS passes through four servers:
Also known as a recursive resolver, this is the first server to reply to our query. In case this server finds the website, it will send it back to the IP of our computer. This will mean that the Recursor has stored the IP of the website in its cache and can send it to us immediately.
In case the website we look for is not in the DNS recursor, this type of server will contact the Root nameserver.
Root Name Server
This is the server the Recursor will contact if it can’t find the web page cached. Our query will be translated into a computer-friendly language – IP address before being proceeded to the next server.
Root servers contain an index of all the servers where our web page may be.
Root servers are 13, placed all over the Globe and managed by ICANN’s Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.
Based on the extension – .com, .org, .co.uk, .eu., the Root server will send the query to the next type of server.
The top-level domain names server is the next step in the search of our web page. These servers read-only part of the website hostname – its extension. According to it, the TLD server contacts the last server.
Authoritative Name Server
The authoritative name server keeps a record of all domains and will return to the DNS recursor the IP address of our query. In case of a changed IP, the Authoritative name server will send back a webpage showing error 404.
Once our computer receives the correct webpage its IP address will be cached. The DNS recursor will cache the IP too so next time we need to visit the same website, the Recursor will be able to respond to our query directly.
What is DNS cache?
As mentioned above, passing through the four sets of servers to visit a web page is not necessary if the computer or the DNS recursor has cached the IP address of this page. Through caching the Recursor can answer the DNS query immediately without the need to check for information the external servers.
The DNS data can be cached on:
- Browser – Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Opera, and Mozilla Firefox, they all have a DNS cache that keeps the visited IP addresses and this is the first place the DNS query gets before being proceeded to the Recursor.
- OS (operating system) – stub resolvers built in the OS. Also called DNS resolvers they can respond to the queries prior to sending it to the DNS recursor server.
- Recursive resolver or the DNS Recursor – as explained above, this is the first external server our computer will connect with in the search of the correct IP address and in case it is not held by Browser’s or the Operating system’s cache. The Recursive resolver may have only part of the query and may still need to check with the other servers. In this case, with information only partly available, the DNS recursor may decide to skip the Root server and connect to the next step.
What information is held by the DNS servers?
Although the goal is to reach the correct web page, meaning that the servers are working on correctly responding to the one DNS query, the different DNS servers are in charge of coping with different parts of the IP address.
The A record keeps the IP address and does apply only for the IPv4 format. This format is shorter, used by most of the websites.
The TXT record helps in translating a text into a DNS. These types of records are in charge of the domain owners’ verification as well as their email services and basic security like coping with the Spam.
The CNAME record is used with larger websites where one IP address is shared by more than one domain name. In this case, load balancers help both domain names to point to the same IP.
During the DNS resolution or during the response by the DNS servers to our query, different types of DNS responses may occur:
The shorter query is the Recursive one. This is the shortest path between the computer and the Recursive server. If the server has cached the IP address during a previous search, it will return to the user either the name of the webpage or an error message.
The query from the Recursor and the other external servers like the Root or the TLD servers is called Iterative DNS queries. This time, the servers will respond by either sending back to the Recursive server the name of the web page or with a referral.
The Non-recursive queries are DNS queries where the Recursor knows where to look for the IP address and can skip a DNS server in order to decrease the time for the query. It can skip the TLD server for example. These types of queries respond with an answer.
Since more familiar with the DNS servers and their significance for browsing, let’s move to the place where the websites are located – the Web hosting.
What is Web Hosting?
This is where the website is located or hosted. This is the physical location of the powerful computer – server on which your website is hosted and where all content is stored. Thanks to Web hosting the web pages are visible on the Internet.
Apart from the website content, the web hosting contains the ftp files, the email accounts, the databases, and the website building platform.
Usually, the web hosting is held by providers in charge of the physical maintenance of the servers. Thanks to them, the website is visible and operates without interruptions. Of course, you could manage your own server. In this case, you will most probably have a separate room for your server and you’ll have to pay attention to the temperature and the electricity, the hardware and the software, the server’s configuration and its maintenance.
Most people who need the services of a hosting server are not technically skilled to maintain their own machines. This is why they use the services of the hosting providers who in their turn offer different hosting solutions depending on how big the website is and what speed it needs.
What are the different types of Web hosting?
Depending on the content of your website, its functionalities, and its speed need, and of course your personal needs you can choose from:
Using Website Builders like WordPress for hosting is perfect for beginners with limited technical knowledge or for developers whose websites are not ready to go fully online yet. These companies will offer you a hosting server while you are building your website.
As the name suggests, these types of hosting servers including their resources like software, storage space, memory, and bandwidth are co-used by the websites of other owners.
This shared hosting environment is cheaper than the other options and can be perfect for small businesses, however, bear in mind that due to the shared usage, the websites on these servers tend to be slower. You will also have very limited access to the server configuration – what’s good for the others is good for you too.
These types of hosting servers use storage and resources from different physical servers. They are also called virtual servers and their main objective is to spread the website data across more than one server.
This means that one website is hosted on different locations. If one of the servers has limited operational power for some reason or is down, the others should take over to keep the website operational.
More expensive than the previous option, the cloud hosting shows better results in terms of website speed, security, and hardware problems compared to the shared hosting.
The virtual private server (VPS) does share hosting space with other websites like the shared hosting but unlike it, the VPS allocates a share of its resources to each of its users. The server is the same but memory, bandwidth, storage space, and others are allocated to each user.
These hosting servers are dedicated to a single website. They offer physical space, memory, speed, etc. to a single website and are quite like having your own server at home or at the office. Apart from all the resources being allocated to your website only, you’ll have to freedom to fully control its configurations.
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