DNS Zone Hosting vs. Web Hosting

Posted on Jan 18 2012
DNS Infographic Tutorial

What is the difference between DNS Hosting and Web Hosting?

Web Hosting for most users is the leasing of space on a server where your website and email accounts can be stored. The server contains disk space which is divided to efficiently provide each hosted site the space it needs.

GKG.NET is an example of a hosting provider. We allow users to lease space on our trusted and very reliable Linux and Windows servers for only a few dollars. Depending on the size and traffic to your website, we offer various packages of space, speed and additional features to suit all types of websites.

DNS Zone Hosting often causes confusion because the word “hosting” is frequently used to refer to Web Hosting. DNS is actually very different and to explain the differences we have included an infographic and detailed explanation of what DNS Zone Hosting is and how it works.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a network of name servers configured to ultimately help one computer device find another. This system can be on a network as vast as the internet, or as small as a private network at the home or office. Example, when you search for “www.gkg.net” in your browser, the DNS (system of name servers) guides your browser to the web server hosting GKG’s website. The way this works can get very complicated as you delve deeper, but allow us to explain the basics.

The World Wide Web’s DNS is a network of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of name servers. The three types of DNS name servers mentioned in this tutorial are “Local”, “Root” and “Authoritative” name servers. These all work together to guide your web browser to the right website.

The DNS Root Servers (“Root”) are the hub of the DNS system. Whenever one name server needs to find another, it ‘asks’ (queries) Root for the IP address of that server and will then temporarily store it in its local cache as needed. There are currently 13 Root servers for top-level domains (TLDs) in the World Wide Web, all synced to respond identically when queried about a particular domain. Each of those root servers is comprised of clustered servers configured to act as one to accommodate spikes in activity and to back each other up if one stops working (redundancy).

When a new top-level domain (TLD) is registered, a record is created and stored in the Root name servers. This record contains the domain’s name and the IP address of one or more Authoritative name servers associated with that domain (2 is recommended, should one fail). These name servers are “Authoritative” because each has been specifically designated to direct domain requests to the web server hosting that domain’s website.

OK, so now that some basics behind the DNS have been explained, let’s walk through the process as it relates to you (see illustration).

(Step 1) When you type a website into your browser, www.gkg.net for example, it asks your Local name server (usually obtained from your ISP) for the IP addresses of gkg.net’s Authoritative name servers.

(Step 2A) If your Local name server has the addresses stored, it provides them to your browser.

(Step 2B) If Local does not have the addresses, it asks Root for them. Root gives Local the addresses of the Authoritative name servers, Local stores them in cache and sends one of them to your browser. Now that your browser has the IP address of one Authoritative name server, it asks that Authoritative for the website of gkg.net.

(Step 3) The Authoritative then gives your browser the IP address of the web server hosting gkg.net.

(Step 4) Your browser now contacts that web server for the pages and the server returns them back to your browser.

You may be asking: why connect to so many name servers before finding the IP address for gkg.net’s web server? We will answer this question and more in additional posts elaborating about more specific functions performed by DNS.

Historically, hosting service providers have included Authoritative name server service as a part of your web hosting account. This means that when you changed hosting providers, you also had to change the Authoritative name servers of your domain. The change from one Authoritative name server to another typically takes 24-48 hours to propagate throughout the internet, during which you could have downtime of your website and email. Depending on which TLD you are changing, the actual change of the Authoritative name server can be quite fast. For instance .com/.net update Root every 15 minutes. However, your Local name server may have cached it for its configured Time-To-Live (TTL) period (which is typically 24 to 48 hours),making Local hold on to that old address for a day or more. Hence the time it takes to propagate the change to Local caching name servers.

To prevent this downtime, DNS Zone Hosting allows you to separate your Authoritative name server service from your hosting and email provider, giving you ultimate control! The advantage is that you can move your hosting and/or email account to any service provider or server instantly, without having the lag time associated with an Authoritative DNS change.

At GKG.NET, we offer this “DNS Zone Hosting” service, which allows you to control your Authoritative name server options through our web control panel. This puts you in control of your Authoritative name servers for less than you paid for the domain.

That’s what we do: make the internet work for you.

For more information about Web Hosting please visit http://gkg.net/hosting/

For more information about DNS Zone Hosting, please visit: https://www.gkg.net/dnszone/buy

For support on either subject, email support@gkg.net

This is one of the more difficult technologies to understand in the web domain world, but we are happy to answer any further questions if you have any. Please let us know if these instructions and illustrations make sense, or if you have suggestions about what we should discuss in our future posts about the DNS. Reply to tell us know what you think!

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