What is a DNS server?

Last updated: April 12, 2021
dns server

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In this article, we break down everything you need to know about DNS servers, from how they work to how you can protect yourself from malware and other security attacks.

A DNS server is a server which possesses a database. This database is designated to house the IP addresses of public internet users from all around the world. The DNS server also houses the host names that are associated with each of these IP addresses. Moreover, DNS servers are often designed to translate host names into IP addresses.

The simplest DNS definition is ‘Domain Name System’. The DNS server which you request has software which engages in communication with other DNS servers. This is done by implementing the use of specialised protocols. Consequently, these specialised protocols allow the DNS server to convert a web address that you type in your browser to a numeric IP address.

Other names for DNS servers

There are several other names that apply to the term DNS. For example, a DNS is also called a name server or a domain name system server. The DNS server ‘translates’ a URL address that you type into numbers; otherwise, people would have to enter these numeric addresses themselves.

DNS server terms—definitions

Before defining DNS in more detail, it is useful to understand the basic premise of a server. A server is a computer system that is linked to the internet; it acts as a host for various services that people access online. Thus, a system that provides hosting for a website is called a web server.

The DNS is a system that uses a type of hierarchy. This simply means that the hierarchy is arranged to accommodate many DNS servers. A DNS server is considered to be a computer which is registered to participate in the DNS hierarchy. It stores a large index of domain names, as well as the respective IP addresses.

How does a DNS server work?

When there is a request made for a current IP address that is relative to a domain name, the DNS server instantly produces that information. If the DNS server you have selected does not have the information on file, it will consult other DNS servers to obtain it for you.

In essence, when you type a web address into the search box on your computer or some other device that you prefer, you would use words. But the DNS server searches for the numbered IP address, as the internet truly functions via numbers. The DNS address therefore is the conversion of the domain name to the numbered IP address.

Why do we need DNS servers?

To understand why it’s necessary to have a DNS server in the first place, recall that there are numbers associated with IP addresses. The DNS server needs to convert the words to numbers for the internet service of sites to work. Computers and networks—unlike humans—relate better to the numbers that have become the standard for IP addresses today. Therefore, the DNS server functions as a type of translator by converting URLs to IP addresses.

Without DNS servers, using the internet would be a significantly more complicated process. These servers mean that there is no requirement for users to remember the numbers in IP addresses. The work that a DNS server does to convert the domain name into the associated IP address makes it possible to easily access sites on the internet. This makes being online much more pleasant for internet users, who tend to prefer words when it comes to typing in URL addresses.

Get an antivirus software for your DNS server

antivirus software can protect dns server

Keep in mind that it is imperative to always use a trustworthy antivirus programme to protect your computer or other devices. A particular reason is that malware is able to attack your computer in such a manner that the settings on your device for the DNS server are changed. This is a problem to avoid at all costs.

For example, your computer may be accessing Google’s DNS servers, which correspond to 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.6.4. Using these servers would load the right information to your online bank account. But malware can direct you away from your bank’s site, even though you typed in the correct web address. Malware can even bring you to a fake site that looks like your real bank’s website to steal your password.

How to keep it secure

In most cases, however, malware which places your DNS server settings under attack simply causes you to be redirected from your preferred website to another one that is typically plastered with advertising, in the hope that you will buy the items advertised. Another scam is to direct you to a fake site that claims your computer is infected, so you buy something to clean your supposedly infected computer.

You do not have to fall victim to malware hijackings. First, be sure to install antivirus on all your devices to catch malware before it can cause any harm. You also need to be aware that if a site looks odd compared with how it looks normally, you are most likely on a fake site. You should leave the site immediately without entering your password.

The verdict

A DNS server is a system that houses domain names and IP addresses. It implements specialised protocols to enable the conversion of the domain name to the numbered IP address. This is done because the internet essentially runs on the numbers of the designated IP addresses. A DNS server is beneficial to save you from having to remember all the cumbersome numbers corresponding to the IP addresses of the sites you visit.

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6 comments
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  1. Dammy Gosh

    The introduction of DNS servers has made life less cumbersome, else we cannot imagine the time that will be spent trying to identify websites from their domain names. But numerical figures and calculations has made websites to pull out information faster.


  2. JohnPaul36598

    Of course, computers and networks are numeric based and numbers relates better on IP addresses. This is why DNS servers are essential. DNS servers converts the words to numbers to allow the computer function optimally


  3. Gemma Marshall

    I checked this out and the article on DNS leaks and learned a lot. People don’t realize how vulnerable they are when they go online unless they take the right steps to protect themselves. A good VPN and antivirus program go a long way in giving you the right amount of online security.


  4. Nicole Smith

    I just had to learn all about this stuff. I have a new site and it is so overwhelming. You actually taught me ever more so thank you.


  5. crazyrobot

    Been using the internet for years yet I had no idea how it actually works and what DNS servers are. I think that saying it’s a translator that converts URLs to IP addresses is the easiest way to understand what it does. Up until now I haven’t been attacked by malware and I hope things stay the same. I like using AdwCleaner and CCleaner regularly as they seem to help.


    1. Mikaela Bray Author

      Hello, we’re happy that you found some new information in this article! And do not forget that a DNS server is beneficial to save you from having to remember all the cumbersome numbers corresponding to the IP addresses of the sites you visit!

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