When you go to a website like amazon.com, your computer contacts a DNS server (Domain Name Server) which translates the site’s name into an IP address that your browser can understand, this process is called domain name resolution. It helps us avoid typing long strings of numbers to access websites. Domain names are easier to remember than IP addresses, which is why we continue to use them for most sites – but without DNS servers, they would be unusable.
DNS servers can also cache information about popular websites so that when you revisit them, they connect faster because there’s no need for another lookup with the server. They also store records about what mail servers should handle email for domains if one goes down or becomes overloaded.
Network administrators can also use them to monitor activity on a local network or the Internet as a whole. And because they’re essentially computers running software, DNS servers are vulnerable to hacking and security breaches just like any other computer online.
How DNS works When you type in a URL into your browser, it looks up the IP address for that site using your operating system’s networking tools, which then connects to the server hosting the site from there – but that process is hidden from view, so all you see when you go somewhere in the domain name. The information that defines this relationship between domain names and associated IP addresses (the mapping is called ‘forward lookup’) is stored in configuration files on your computer.