What are DNS Records and How Do I Use Them?

In order to understand what Domain Name System (DNS) records are, first need to look at what DNS is.

DNS is a system that directs a domain name to a physical IP address. For instance, when a user types in www.abc.com in their browser and enters it, the https://www.freeparking.co.nz/domain-names/transfer/ resolve it to the IP address of the web server that hosts the site.

The main function of a DNS is so that websites can be visited by an easy-to-remember domain name, rather than recalling a numeric IP address string. DNS also makes it easier for website owners to change their where their website is hosted without necessarily changing their domain names. Web owners can modify the DNS entry for their domain name and point it to the name servers of their new website host.

What is a Nameserver?

A name server (or nameserver) keeps a record of DNS entries of your domain name. For example, if your website is hosted by XYZ, the name server used to manage your DNS records will be XYZ’s standard name servers, as seen here:

NS1.XYZ.com (primary server)
NS2.XYZ.com (secondary name server)
NS3.XYZ.com

Each domain name is required to have at least two nameservers. The primary server is the first name server. However, if there is a problem with the primary server, the domain name will be resolved by the secondary name server.

WordPress hosting providers allow users to get unique name servers. For example, if you run a blog about fast cars, your private name server could be:

NS1.fastcars.net
NS2.fastcars.net

Changing Name Servers

Domain name registrars like to offer easy-to-use tools for domain managers to manage their servers. It is usually best to have the same domain registrar and hosting provider. This is because the hassle of transferring domain names or changing servers won’t be a problem.

But, there are situations where the domain name registrar and hosting providers are separate services. Where this is the case, you can change the DNS nameservers and point to the nameservers belonging to your web host. For instance, if ABC registered your domain name and your website is hosted by XYZ, this is how you would change your name servers:

  1. Go to ABC.com and sign in.
  2. Take your cursor over to domains, and click Domain Management.
  3. Select the domain name you wish to edit and click the nameservers button.
  4. Select  “I have specific nameservers for my domain”, and key in the nameservers for XYZ.
  5. Select OK, and you are good to go.

The instructions are basically the same for most domain name registrars. Simply log into the area for domain management and select the domain you want to edit. If you have problems, contact your domain registrar for technical support.

DNS Records

A Record
An ‘A Record’ is the simplest type of all the DNS records and is used to point a domain or subdomain to an IP address. You can assign a value to any of the records. Assigning an ‘A Record’ value is as easy as supplying the management panel (of the DNS) with an IP address where both the domain and sub-domain should direct to, and a Time to Live (TTL).

An ‘A Record’ can only take an IP address as their value on the same domain. Or a sub-domain can be pointed to several IP addresses by adding another ‘A Record’ with the same title, but different IP address for the value.

If you have an IP address that the domain or subdomain should point to, or if you want to set up a domain or subdomain that will be used as the location to point a CNAME, use an ‘A Record’ for your DNS entry.

CNAME Record
CNAME records are another popularly used type of DNS entry, and can be used to point a name or host, to a different name or host. One of the main differences between a CNAME Record and an ‘A Record’ is that the value section of its record must be a current subdomain or domain.

Web hosting providers can use CNAME hosts as a way to transparently change the IP address of a server or a group of servers without bothering the customer to adjust the DNS.

MX Record
Mail Exchanger (MX) records are useful for routing emails according to the preference of the domain owners. The MX record itself specifies the server(s) that it will use to deliver mails when this particular request is made to the domain.

The difference between MX Records and ‘A Records’ or CNAMEs is that they also need a “priority” value that is a portion of their entry. The priority number is used in determining the servers listed “MX record” to be applied first.

If two sub domains point to two different email servers assigned to handle emails, the MX Record with the lower priority number will be the first to be tried for email delivery. If this particular server does not respond to the mail request, it will move to the next level of priority number available.

While some email providers have more than two MX records, others have just one. The number of MX entries you’ll need to create will depend greatly on the mail service provider and how they want the load on the email servers to be handled.

TXT Record
A TXT record is used to store any text-based information that can be called up when needed. TXT Records are mainly used to hold SPF data and confirm domain ownership. If you’ll need to confirm or provide an SPF record for a particular subdomain, you are required to use the appropriate host or name in place of the @ character.

The general rule for TXT records is that they must be given an attribute name, followed by an “equal” sign, and a value for the attribute. This can be used to convey any type of information you wish, using a DNS record, as long as you have a purpose for it and it is well formatted.

Managing your own DNS can appear tricky, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process, or have never seen a DNS record. However, with time, you’ll get the hang of it. DNS records provide an effective way for domain owners to attend to their websites.

1 Mar 2017 / Aliesha Ellington


Not sure which plan's best for you? Ask our experts on 0800 373 372


Need More Help?

Call our support team on: 0800 373 372
Email us at: support@freeparking.co.nz

At Freeparking we take pride in making it easy for you to get online. Check out the step-by-step How To Guides and FAQs on our Support Site, but if you need more help we want to hear from you. Send us an email and we'll respond not just quickly, but with the right information in language you understand.


Your subscription request has been received, please check your email for confirmation.