If the term "DNS record" only raises question marks in your head, you've come to the right place. I will give you a simple explanation of the most important points you need to know.
You can read the whole article, or if you are interested in something in particular, you can jump directly to the respective points:
What is a DNS record - simply explained?
A DNS record is basically information that is stored in the DNS directory (correctly: DNS zone) of your domain and is interpreted accordingly depending on the defined type.
For example, with the type MX, the entered value is interpreted as the responsible mail server and mails for your domain are delivered to it.
As we discussed in the corresponding article, your domain name serves as a simplified address for various connected services. This can be your website, a mail server and much more (e.g. plain text - which is often used for test procedures).
Typically, you only have to deal with DNS records every now and then:
Either when they are created or when they no longer work.
Create a DNS record
From time to time it is necessary to create certain DNS records (especially if you are setting up a new Internet presence - e.g. website and e-mail).
This can be quite intimidating as it is not a very common and quite abstract topic, but don't panic, with a bit of basic understanding you will be fine:
Creating DNS records in a simplified way
Some hosting providers also act as domain registrars and offer the possibility to create and manage DNS records in a simplified way if you purchase the corresponding products from them. Often the corresponding functions can be found in areas such as DNS diagnosis / analysis / test or simply DNS settings / administration / zone.
However, if you need to create the DNS records manually, this is not a problem. Just follow the procedure below and you should be successful.
- Get the necessary DNS records (you can usually get this in the interface of the respective provider or, in case of doubt, from their support).
- Open the DNS zone of your domain
- Check whether an record of this type already exists and should/must be changed or a new one created.
- Set the appropriate type for the DNS record (e.g. A, AAAA, MX, TXT, etc.)
- Enter the corresponding source, the domain name for which the entry should exist (e.g. "howtolive.online" for an MX or www.howtolive.online for a CNAME). Typically, your domain is defined (e.g. your-domain.de) and in some cases the host name is added. Since the records are often to be set for just the domain (e.g. the MX), no value is to be set here (or with some providers an @ symbol as a placeholder).
- Enter the target or value for the record (see table below for the most common record types). Whether the name is a target or a value usually depends on whether the record refers to something (e.g. CNAME) or just contains information (as with TXT records).
- Specify the TTL. The Time-To-Live is the self-proclaimed lifetime of an record. The shorter, the more frequently the entry is checked to see if it has changed. In most cases, the TTL is communicated to you with the entry, if there is an important reason. If not, 1 hour (also given as 3600 seconds, depending on the interface) to 24 hours is absolutely fine.
- Save the record
Here you will find the most common DNS records you will come across:
|Type||Required target||Example target||Special note||Scope|
|A and AAAA||IPv4 or IPv6 address||126.96.36.199|
|none||Connecting to a server (e.g. web server for your website)|
|CNAME||Domain Name||shops.myshopify.com||Can't be the actual domain. Must be set to a host name such as www., shop., etc.|
Can't coexist with other records that exist on the same hostname.
|A CNAME is a type of forwarding. This is also the reason why this type cannot coexist with other records on the same hostname.|
|MX||Mail Server||mail.infomaniak.com||With this type, another value called "Priority" is requested. This defines which MX record has priority, if there are several. The lower the number, the higher the priority.||Connection of a domain name with a mail server and ultimately the e-mail accounts available there.|
|TXT||Any||v=spf1 include:spf.infomaniak.ch ?all||This is simple text. The specific function only comes about when interpreted by corresponding applications.||Miscellaneous. For example, TXTs can be used for validations (e.g. SPF) and verifications are used (e.g. to connect one's page with Pinterest).|
Note 1: It can take up to 48 hours for your new entry to be propagated. This is the maximum time that is technically possible. This information sounds very general... and it is. This is because your provider has only limited influence on the propagation.
Note 2: Which DNS zone is active for your domain and therefore where you have to enter your entries is defined by the name servers (NS for short). You can check here which NS are currently set for your domain: https://toolbox.googleapps.com/apps/dig/#NS/
Check a DNS entry
As mentioned above, it can happen that records suddenly no longer work. This can have various reasons. Typically, the problem can be traced back to one of the following causes:
- The DNS records have been changed. This often happens due to hasty changes to the DNS zone.
- Your provider has technical issues
- Your provider has technical issues
Here is the quick version:
- Open a testing tool of your choice (e.g. https://whatsmydns.net)
- Define the type of your DNS record to be checked (e.g. A, AAAA, MX, TXT, etc.).
- Enter the domain name for which the record should exist (e.g. "howtolive.online" for a MX or www.howtolive.online for a CNAME)
- Run the search if the tool does not do this automatically
And here is the more detailed one:
There are various ways to check whether a DNS record exists.
You will often find instructions on how to carry out the check in command consoles (e.g. in Windows by means of a command prompt) in order to carry out a so-called lookup, but for the average user, in my opinion, this is not necessarily necessary or useful, as there can be long intervals between needs and one has often already forgotten the commands again. The reason for this is that you rarely need to adjust the DNS records of your domain. So before you research the commands, you can instead look directly for an online tool.
Also, the results in command consoles may be incorrect if the problem is local to your device.
There are several freely available online tools. In most cases, these have a clear interface that simplifies their use.
Such a query of a DNS entry is called DNS lookup. If you are interested in this topic, you can read the corresponding article.
Online-Tool für DNS Lookups – mit Anleitung
Has a simple and sleek user interface:
In this line you enter the (sub-)domain for which you want to check a record, 2. here you determine the type of the record to be checked.
Note that this tool automatically performs the search once you have defined 1. and 2.
You will see the corresponding result in the separate box below your defined search. Only the TTL (Time-To-Live) and the target are displayed here.
Wenn du den Slider für „Rohdaten-Ansicht“ aktivierst wird dir, neben der vereinfachten Darstellung, der Eintrag auch in kompletter Form als Ergebnis angezeigt.
provides an overview of the global propagation of your DNS record:
1. the input field for the domain (or subdomain) to be checked, 2. here you define the type of record, 3. here you carry out the search, 4. here you see which servers are queried worldwide and then answer in the result and which records are returned.
This search shows the MX of howtolive.online. You can see that the record seems to be properly propagated. By the way, it is normal that not every server always responds. There is no reason to worry as long as the majority of the records are found. If you run it repeatedly, you will usually see a certain fluctuation. Sometimes a server responds, sometimes not.
Has an extensive record selection and functions. Rather for detailed and/or special queries:
1. in this field you enter the domain or subdomain you want to check (you can also enter several in succession), 2. here you define the type of record to be checked, 3. here you execute the query (the dig)
In this case, the type TXT was checked for the domain howtolive.online.
You can see that in this case the options "Colorize" and "Trace" are activated. This colourises the result, which makes it easier to read, and lists the various servers involved in the query (this helps to identify the cause of problems).
Breakdown of the syntax of DNS records
It can happen that you encounter technical writing as a result. And that can be a little intimidating at first. But if you understand the syntax, it's not so bad:
|Designation:||Source||TTL||Class||Type||Target or Value|
|DNS record:||howtolive.online.||3600||IN||TXT||„v=spf1 include:spf.infomaniak.ch ?all“|
|Remark:||Here is defined for which domain the entry is valid||Time-To-Live. How long the record itself says it is valid before it should be queried again (in seconds).||Simply means Internet|
and is the only class we encounter
|The respective record type. The most common ones to contact are: A, AAAA, CNAME, MX, TXT, NS||Where the record points to or, as in this case, what it says|
What the query result means
Basically, there are three possible types of outcome:
No record is displayed
Check whether the DNS record exists in the DNS zone. If this is the case, you should check the name servers (NS), possibly a different DNS zone is active than you are aware of. If you have checked this but it was not the problem, you should contact your provider. It is possible that there is a fault on the effective server or that the DNS zone has fallen out of sync.
A different record is displayed than expected:
Check your record for correctness. If it is correct, you should check the name servers (NS), it is quite possible that a different DNS zone is active than you are aware of. If you can rule this out, you should contact your provider. It is possible that there is a fault on the actual server or that the DNS zone has fallen out of sync.
The correct DNS record is displayed
You have done everything right and there is no disturbance: you can put lean back 😉
Fix errors/problems with DNS entries
What sounds complicated is in reality quite easy to do:
- If the error lies with you, I recommend that you obtain the entry again from the corresponding provider (of the web hosting, mail service, etc.), delete the old record and create the record completely anew. Editing an incorrect record is much less clear.
- If the problem lies with the provider, a short contact with their support is usually sufficient to initiate the fix.
If you are not in a hurry, you can also write to me and tell me about your problem. I will be happy to help you.