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How Many Types of DNS Servers Are There?

All DNS servers fall into one of five categories: recursive DNS servers, root name servers, top-level domain (TLD) name servers, authoritative DNS servers, and forwarding DNS servers. In a typical DNS lookup, these five DNS servers collaborate efficiently to resolve a domain name to its corresponding IP address. This process ensures that when you enter a web address into your browser, your request is accurately directed to the correct web server, enabling you to access the desired website.

When a DNS lookup occurs without any cached information, the query begins at the recursive DNS server, which then contacts the root name server to identify the correct TLD name server for the domain in question. The TLD Name Server directs the query to the appropriate authoritative DNS server, which holds the actual DNS records for the domain. In some cases, a forwarding DNS server may be involved to relay the query to another server. Together, these servers seamlessly work to deliver the required IP address to the client, allowing for a smooth and efficient internet experience.

What is a DNS recursive resolver?

A DNS recursive resolver, often simply called a recursive resolver, is a crucial component of the Domain Name System (DNS) that acts as an intermediary between a client (like your computer or smartphone) and the DNS hierarchy. When you enter a web address into your browser, the recursive resolver is responsible for finding the corresponding IP address by querying other DNS servers on your behalf.

How does a recursive resolver work?

  1. Query Reception: When you type a URL into your browser, your device sends a DNS query to the recursive resolver. This query asks for the IP address associated with the domain name you entered.
  2. Request Handling: The recursive resolver checks its cache to see if it has recently resolved the domain name. If the information is available in its cache, it returns the IP address immediately, speeding up the process.
  3. Hierarchy Traversal: If the requested information is not in the cache, the recursive resolver starts a process to find the IP address. It begins by querying the root name servers, which provide the address of the appropriate top-level domain (TLD) name server (e.g.,.com,.org).
  4. TLD Query: The recursive resolver then queries the TLD name server, which provides the address of the authoritative DNS server for the specific domain.
  5. Authoritative Server Query: Finally, the recursive resolver queries the authoritative DNS server, which contains the actual DNS records for the domain. This server returns the IP address of the domain to the recursive resolver.
  6. Response Delivery: The recursive resolver delivers the IP address back to the client (your device), allowing your browser to connect to the website.

Benefits of Recursive Resolvers

  • Efficiency: By caching DNS query results, recursive resolvers reduce the load on other DNS servers and speed up future queries.
  • Reliability: They ensure that DNS queries are resolved even if some servers are temporarily unavailable.
  • User Experience: Recursive resolvers make web browsing faster and more reliable by quickly providing the necessary IP addresses.

What is a DNS root nameserver?

A DNS root nameserver is a critical component of the Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure, serving as the first step in translating human-readable domain names into IP addresses. These servers act as a reference point for locating the next level of DNS servers needed to resolve a query.

How does a root nameserver work?

  1. Initial Query Handling: When a DNS recursive resolver receives a query that it cannot answer from its cache, it sends the query to one of the root nameservers. This is the first stop in the journey of resolving the domain name.
  2. Providing TLD Information: The root nameserver does not know the IP address of the requested domain directly. Instead, it directs the recursive resolver to the appropriate Top-Level Domain (TLD) nameserver. For example, if you are trying to reach, the root nameserver will provide the address of the .com TLD nameserver.

Importance of Root Nameservers

  • Foundation of DNS: Root nameservers are the foundation of the DNS hierarchy. Without them, the recursive resolver would not know where to start the process of finding the IP address for a domain.
  • Global Distribution: There are 13 sets of root nameservers (identified as letters A through M), each with multiple redundant servers distributed worldwide to ensure reliability and availability. These servers are maintained by various organizations to prevent a single point of failure.
  • High Availability: The global distribution and redundancy of root nameservers ensure that DNS queries can be resolved quickly and reliably, even under high traffic conditions or during localized outages.

Example of the Process

  1. Query Initiation: You type “” into your browser.
  2. Recursive Resolver Contact: Your device sends the query to a recursive resolver.
  3. Root Nameserver Query: The recursive resolver queries a root nameserver to find out which TLD nameserver domains.
  4. TLD Referral: The root nameserver responds with the IP address of TLD nameserver.
  5. Continuation: The recursive resolver then queries TLD nameserver, and the process continues until the IP address of is found.

What is a TLD nameserver?

A Top-Level Domain (TLD) nameserver is a critical component in the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy that maintains information for all domain names sharing a common domain extension, such,.net, or any other extension that appears after the last dot in a URL. For instance, TLD nameserver contains data for every website that ends in ‘.com’.

How does a TLD nameserver work?

When a user types a domain name like into their browser, the following process occurs:

  1. Root Nameserver Response: After the recursive resolver contacts the root nameserver, it receives a referral to the appropriate TLD nameserver based on the domain extension (in this case,.com).
  2. TLD Query: The recursive resolver then sends a query to TLD nameserver.
  3. Authoritative Nameserver Referral: The TLD nameserver does not provide the IP address directly but instead points the recursive resolver to the authoritative nameserver for the specific domain ( This authoritative nameserver holds the actual DNS records for the domain.

Types of TLD Nameservers

  1. Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs):
    • These domains are not specific to any country.
    • Common gTLDs,.org,.net,.edu,
  2. Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs):
    • These domains are specific to a particular country or geographic location.
    • Examples (United Kingdom),.us (United States),.ru (Russia), (Japan).
  3. Infrastructure TLDs:
    • This category was created for domain, which was used during the transition to modern DNS. Its significance today is mostly historical.

Management of TLD Nameservers

The management of TLD nameservers is overseen by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is a branch of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). IANA is responsible for coordinating the global DNS root, IP addressing, and other Internet protocol resources.

Importance of TLD Nameservers

  • Organization: TLD nameservers organize domain names based on their extensions, ensuring efficient management and resolution of DNS queries.
  • Reliability: They provide an additional layer in the DNS resolution process, contributing to the overall reliability and stability of internet navigation.
  • Scalability: By distributing queries across multiple layers of DNS servers, including TLD nameservers, the system can handle large volumes of requests without overwhelming individual servers.

What is an authoritative nameserver?

An authoritative nameserver is a crucial component in the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy that holds and provides the definitive answers for DNS queries regarding a specific domain name. Unlike recursive or caching DNS servers, which temporarily store information, authoritative nameservers contain the original source of DNS records.

How Does an Authoritative Nameserver Work?

  1. Query Reception: When a recursive resolver has been directed to the authoritative nameserver by the TLD nameserver, it sends a query to the authoritative nameserver asking for the IP address associated with the specific domain name.
  2. DNS Record Retrieval: The authoritative nameserver looks up its DNS records, which include various types such as:
    • A record maps a domain to an IPv4 address.
    • AAAA Record: Maps a domain to an IPv6 address.
    • MX Record: Specifies the mail servers for a domain.
    • CNAME Record: Indicates that a domain name is an alias for another domain.
    • NS Record: specifies other authoritative nameservers for the domain.
  3. Response Delivery: The authoritative nameserver sends the IP address (or other requested information) back to the recursive resolver, which then passes it on to the client, allowing the user to connect to the desired website.

Types of Authoritative Nameservers

  1. Primary Authoritative Nameserver:
    • Also known as the master server.
    • Holds the original read-write copy of all DNS records for the domain.
    • Changes to DNS records are made on this server.
  2. Secondary Authoritative Nameserver:
    • Also known as a slave server.
    • Holds read-only copies of the DNS records.
    • Regularly synchronizes with the primary server to ensure up-to-date information.
    • Provides redundancy and load balancing.

Importance of Authoritative Nameservers

  • Accuracy: They provide the most accurate and up-to-date DNS information because they are the source of truth for domain data.
  • Reliability: By having both primary and secondary authoritative nameservers, the system ensures high availability and redundancy. If one server fails, another can respond to DNS queries.
  • Control: Domain owners can manage their DNS records on the authoritative nameserver, allowing them to configure how their domain names are resolved.

Example of the Process

  1. User Action: You type “” into your browser.
  2. Recursive Resolver: The query travels from the recursive resolver to the root nameserver, then to TLD nameserver, and finally to the authoritative nameserver, for
  3. Authoritative Response: The authoritative nameserver, for, looks up its DNS records and returns the IP address for to the recursive resolver.
  4. Connection Established: The recursive resolver sends the IP address to your browser, which then connects to the website’s server.

What is a forwarding DNS server?

A forwarding DNS server is a type of DNS server that does not resolve DNS queries by directly contacting the authoritative nameservers. Instead, it forwards the DNS queries to another DNS server, typically a recursive resolver, to perform the resolution process. This setup can help streamline DNS management and improve efficiency within a network.

How does a forwarding DNS server work?

  1. Query Reception: When a client device, like a computer or smartphone, sends a DNS query to the forwarding DNS server, it does not attempt to resolve the query itself.
  2. Forwarding the Query: The forwarding DNS server passes the query to another DNS server, usually a recursive resolver, which then takes over the process of finding the IP address associated with the domain name.
  3. Receiving the Response: Once the recursive resolver has completed the query by contacting the necessary authoritative nameservers and resolving the domain name to an IP address, it sends the response back to the forwarding DNS server.
  4. Delivering the Response: The forwarding DNS server then forwards this response back to the client device, completing the DNS query process.

Benefits of Forwarding DNS Servers

  • Load Distribution: By forwarding queries, these servers can help distribute the load across multiple DNS servers, preventing any single server from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Centralized Control: Network administrators can configure a few forwarding DNS servers to handle queries, simplifying management and maintenance.
  • Enhanced Security: Forwarding DNS servers can be set up to use specific upstream DNS servers that are trusted, ensuring a secure and controlled DNS resolution process.
  • Improved Performance: They can cache the responses they receive from recursive resolvers, which speeds up the resolution process for frequently accessed domains.

Example of the Process

  1. User Action: You type “” into your browser.
  2. Forwarding DNS Server: Your device sends the DNS query to the forwarding DNS server.
  3. Query Forwarding: The forwarding DNS server forwards the query to a designated recursive resolver.
  4. Recursive Resolution: The recursive resolver performs the necessary steps to resolve the domain name, contacting root, TLD, and authoritative nameservers as needed.
  5. Response Return: The recursive resolver sends the resolved IP address back to the forwarding DNS server.
  6. Final Delivery: The forwarding DNS server forwards the response to your device, allowing your browser to connect to the website.

The importance of forwarding DNS servers

  • Efficiency in Large Networks: They are particularly useful in large networks where direct resolution by each client might lead to inefficiencies.
  • Network Optimization: By optimizing the path of DNS queries, forwarding DNS servers can improve overall network performance.
  • Simplified DNS Configuration: They allow for a simplified DNS configuration in complex network environments, centralizing the management of DNS traffic.

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