It’s one thing getting your website onto the internet and ready to be seen by the multitudes – it’s an entirely separate thing to keep it available to the world 100% of the time. At isev, we’ve worked hard to make the very best website hosting available to all of our clients and in this series we’re going to go into some detail about how we do it.
In the first part of our series on Resilient Website Hosting, we’re going to look at one of the foundation stones of the web and why our implementation is the best in the UK.
What is DNS?
One of the most critical pieces of the modern internet is called the Domain Name System, or DNS for short. “What’s that?” I hear some of you asking. DNS is what helps browsers, email programs, and other servers find out where your website and email accounts actually exist – what servers they are available on.
Every server connected to the internet has a unique IP address (a sort of phone number) that identifies its location on the network. When you type a domain name into your browser and press Go, your computer has to ask the internet: What computer hosts the website at www.example.com? Or in other words, where the website is stored.
DNS is the tool that provides the answer. Without DNS, if we wanted to use websites or email, we’d have to remember all of the different ‘phone numbers’ for each company’s services. In this alternate reality without DNS, simple tasks like googling would mean typing in the IP address 188.8.131.52 (you can do this now, and guess what shows up!) instead of simply going to google.co.uk.
Emailing someone would be even more annoying. As things are, it wouldn’t even be possible to email me without DNS. My email address would probably have to look something like this: firstname.lastname@example.org because I use a mail server that handles emails for many domains, not just isev’s.
Thankfully we have DNS, so we don’t need to remember all this nonsense. You can just go to google.co.uk. And my email address is much, much simpler.
The Benefits of DNS
DNS gives us some added benefits too. For example, if the server at one of those IP addresses goes down or for some reason becomes unavailable, we’d have to tell everyone the new, different ‘phone number’ and hope that they use it. But with DNS we can just update it in one place, and our users can keep using the same domain name (www.example.com) they’ve always used: the translation to the correct number happens seamlessly.
Another obvious bonus is that, with a domain name, a company’s services can become a representation of the brand. Then, instead of a series of numbers, you get an easily identifiable and memorable domain name. In many cases, this actually helps people find a website, purely because the address is some combination of their name followed by .com or .co.uk, or similar.
It also means that hosting providers have been able to provide much cheaper shared hosting, because multiple domains can all point to the same IP address, the same server – the name itself is what differentiates and identifies which services are being requested.
These benefits come at a price though: DNS adds a layer of complexity that actually makes the web a little slower. So depending on where you are in relation to the DNS server for the website you’re ‘calling’, and how fast (or slow) that server is, requests can take a little longer to finish, especially for websites you’ve never visited before.
Because this extra layer comes between you and your users, it’s important to make sure your DNS runs as smoothly as possible. That’s why DNS has a built-in failover (or fallback) mechanism: you can tell calling systems that you have multiple DNS servers (aka name servers) in different locations.
This is the very core of online resilience. Keeping your business-critical systems – such as email, or your revenue-generating ecommerce website – alive hinge on making sure your infrastructure is sound. As DNS is such a fundamental piece, wouldn’t you sleep happier knowing that it was as resilient as it could be?
Things you should check
Here are some important things to check when you register a domain name that you want to use for business critical services:
- What happens when you need to update your DNS records? Do the changes automatically propagate to all name servers?
- What happens if some or all of your name servers go down or become inaccessible? Is there anything you can do to mitigate the effects of such a possibility?
At isev, we’ve worked hard to address as many of these issues as possible:
- Our name servers are in key strategic locations worldwide, making it super fast when anyone, anywhere needs to find out your website’s ‘phone number.’
- We use 4 name servers by default for high resilience, if one location goes down there are still 3 others.
- All of our name servers speak to each other and keep each other up to date – so changes to your DNS are instantly available on all of them.
DNS is a critical part of the internet we love and it makes our lives a whole lot easier. At isev we take this very seriously. That’s why ALL of the domains for which we manage DNS are hosted on our super-resilient platform.
In the next instalment, we’ll go into more detail on hosting elements for businesses.
In the meantime…find out about our hosting packages and why we’re one of the best hosting providers in the UK.