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What Is A DNS Zones? (A Complete Guide)

WRITTEN BY
Timothy Shim
UPDATED
February 26, 2024

 

Domain Name System (DNS) zones are essential to the Internet’s infrastructure. They help translate domain names into IP addresses so that we can easily access websites. A DNS zone is a part of the DNS system controlled by a specific server.

 

This article will discuss DNS zones, how they function, and how to create and manage them. We’ll also cover some common issues that can crop up and more advanced configurations. Plus, we’ll dive into the role of web hosting in DNS zone management. Sound good? Let’s get started!

 

 

How Do DNS Zones Work?

 

DNS Zones define the hierarchical structure of the web

DNS Zones define the hierarchical structure of the web. (Credit: AppNeta)

 

DNS Zones are a fundamental concept in the Domain Name System (DNS) and refer to an administrative space or a portion of the DNS namespace. They are containers that hold the DNS records for a specific domain or subdomain, such as example.com or blog.example.com.

 

A DNS zone is typically hosted on a DNS server, which is responsible for storing and serving the DNS records for that zone. The DNS server acts as the authoritative source of information for the domain or subdomain and responds to DNS queries from other servers or clients.

 

 

How Are DNS Zones Created?

 

domains

 

DNS zones are created and managed by the owner of a domain or subdomain, who has the authority to specify the DNS records that define the domain’s behavior. They enable domain owners to manage their domain’s DNS information and ensure that their domain is accessible to users worldwide.

 

A DNS zone can be created for any level of the DNS hierarchy, from the top-level domain (TLD), like .com or .org, to subdomains like mail.example.com or support.example.com. Each DNS zone has its own set of DNS records, including A, MX, CNAME, and TXT records, which define the domain’s IP addresses, mail servers, aliases, and text data.

 

DNS zones can be created and managed using various tools and platforms like cPanel, Plesk, and BIND. These tools provide an intuitive interface for creating and editing DNS records and managing DNS zone settings, such as the TTL (time to live) and SOA (start of authority) records.

 

 

Managing DNS Zones With a Web Host

 

DNS zone editor in cpanel

You can create and manage DNS zones in cPanel. (Credit: cPanel)

 

Managing a DNS zone with your web hosting plan can vary depending on the web hosting provider and your hosting plan. However, most reputable web hosting providers have a control panel allowing you to manage your DNS zone easily. Here are the general steps to manage a DNS zone with your web hosting plan:

 

  1. Log in to your web hosting control panelThe first step is to log in to your web hosting control panel. The control panel is the web-based interface that allows you to manage your hosting account, including your DNS zone.
  2. Find the DNS management sectionOnce you’re logged in to your control panel, find the DNS management section. This can be labeled differently depending on the hosting provider, but it’s usually located under the “Domains” or “DNS” section.
  3. Edit your DNS zoneIn the DNS management section, you can view and edit your DNS zone records. To make changes, click on the record you want to edit, update the necessary information, and save the changes.
  4. Add new DNS recordsIf you need to add a new one, click the “Add Record” or “Add New” button, select the record type you want to create and enter the necessary information.
     
    Add new DNS in cPanel
  5. Delete DNS recordsTo delete a DNS record, select the record you want to delete and click on the “Delete” or “Remove” button.
     
    Edit or delete DNS in cPanel
  6. Save changesOnce you’ve made the necessary changes to your DNS zone, save the changes by clicking on the “Save” or “Update” button.

 

It’s important to note that managing a DNS zone can be a technical process, and making incorrect changes to your DNS zone can cause issues with your website or email.

 

If you need to become more familiar with DNS management or are unsure about making changes, it’s best to seek assistance from your web hosting provider or a technical expert.

 

 

Basic DNS Record Types and Uses

 

The most common DNS record types include A, MX, CNAME, TXT, and NS records. Each record type serves a specific purpose in the DNS system, and understanding their functions is crucial for managing and troubleshooting DNS issues.

 

Here’s a brief overview of common DNS record types:

 

  • A Records
    Maps a domain name to an IP address. Web traffic needs to be directed to the correct server.
  • MX Records
    Specify the mail server handling emails for a particular domain.
  • CNAME Records
    Maps an alias domain name to a canonical domain name.
  • TXT Records
    Can store any arbitrary text data associated with a domain name. This is often used for verification purposes.
  • NS Records
    Specifies the name servers responsible for answering queries for a particular domain.

 

These record types are the most commonly used in the DNS system, but other record types include SRV, AAAA, PTR, SOA, and DNSKEY records. The SRV record is used to specify the location of servers for specific services, such as voice-over IP (VoIP) or instant messaging.

 

 

Troubleshooting Common DNS Zone Issues

 

DNS propagation

DNS changes can take time to propagate worldwide. (Credit: SiteGround)

 

There are several common DNS zone problems that website owners and system administrators may encounter. Below are some of the most common issues and the steps you can take to resolve them:

 

Issue 1: DNS Propagation Delay

 

DNS propagation is the time it takes for DNS changes to be distributed throughout the Internet. This can cause issues if you’ve recently changed your DNS zone and some users still see the old DNS records.

 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to speed up DNS propagation, as it depends on DNS servers’ caching policies. However, you can reduce the propagation time by lowering the TTL (time-to-live) value of your DNS records before making any changes.

 

Issue 2: DNS Resolution Errors

 

DNS resolution errors occur when a server cannot find a valid DNS record for a domain or subdomain. This can result in users needing help accessing your website. Some common reasons for DNS resolution errors include incorrect DNS records, expired DNS records, and incorrect DNS server settings.

 

To resolve this issue, double-check your DNS records and ensure they are valid and up-to-date. If the issue persists, contact your DNS hosting provider for assistance.

 

Issue 3: Incorrect DNS Zone Configuration

 

An incorrect DNS zone configuration can cause various issues, such as email delivery failure, website downtime, and security issues. Common mistakes include misconfigured DNS records, incorrect SOA (Start of Authority) settings, and incorrect DNS server settings.

 

Review your DNS zone configuration to resolve this issue and ensure all settings are correct. You can also use DNS zone validation tools to check for common configuration errors.

 

Issue 4: DNS Server Overload

 

If your DNS server is overloaded with requests, it can lead to slow response times or even DNS resolution errors. Consider using a load balancer to distribute the DNS requests across multiple servers to resolve this issue.

 

You can also optimize your DNS server settings and upgrade your hardware to improve performance.

 

Issue 5: DNS Zone Hijacking

 

DNS zone hijacking occurs when an attacker gains unauthorized access to your DNS zone and modifies your DNS records to redirect users to a malicious website.

 

To prevent DNS zone hijacking, ensure that your DNS hosting provider uses secure authentication mechanisms and regularly monitors your DNS zone for unauthorized changes. You can also use DNSSEC (DNS Security Extensions) to add a layer of security to your DNS zone.

 

 

More Advanced DNS Zone Configurations

 

Split DNS

DNS Zones can be separated even for the same domain name. (Credit: itgeared)

 

Advanced DNS zone configurations involve more complex configurations of DNS zones, typically used in large-scale enterprise environments or advanced networking scenarios. These configurations can include:

 

  • Split DNS
    Split DNS, or split-horizon DNS, involves creating two separate DNS zones for the same domain name, one for internal and external network users. This allows internal users to access resources using internal IP addresses while external users access the same resources using public IP addresses.
  • Round-robin DNS
    Round-robin DNS is a technique used to distribute traffic evenly across multiple servers by rotating the IP addresses of the servers in a DNS zone. This is often used in load-balancing scenarios to distribute traffic across multiple servers, improving performance and reliability.
  • DNSSEC
    DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) is a set of security extensions to the DNS protocol that provides cryptographic authentication and data integrity. DNSSEC can be used to prevent DNS spoofing and other attacks, ensuring the integrity of DNS responses.
  • Anycast DNS
    Anycast DNS is a technique used to improve DNS performance and reliability by replicating DNS servers in multiple locations worldwide. Anycast DNS routes DNS queries to the nearest DNS server, reducing latency and improving response times.
  • Geolocation-based DNS
    Geolocation-based DNS is a technique used to route DNS queries based on the user’s geographic location. This can be used to direct users to the nearest server or to comply with legal requirements in specific countries.

 

 

DNS Zones Are Important for Websites to Run

 

With a better understanding of DNS zones, the different types of DNS records, and how to create and manage DNS zones, you can ensure your website and email services operate smoothly and without interruption.

 

Troubleshooting standard DNS zone issues and learning about advanced DNS zone configurations can also help you optimize your DNS settings and improve the performance of your website.

 

Troubleshooting standard DNS zone issues and learning about advanced DNS zone configurations can also help you optimize your DNS settings and improve the performance of your website.

 

 

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