Demystifying DNS

What in the world is DNS and what does it mean to you? Alphabet soup is common in high-tech pursuits, but it seems that in the world of Internet protocols the acronym for Domain Name Service generates a large measure of attention. DNS is a service that can link up domain names with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Here's a brief explanation of how DNS works and where Windows networking administrators can go for help.

What in the world is the Domain Name Service, and what does it mean to you? Alphabet soup is common in many high-tech pursuits, but in the world of Internet protocols, the acronym DNS seems to generate a large measure of attention.

This is all very simple, of course. As with any kind of specialized endeavor, once you know the vocabulary, then you are well on your way to understanding the arcane thing you're talking about.

DNS is short for Domain Name Service. This is a service that can link up domain names with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This is a necessary service because we human beings don't like to remember addresses like 192.168.1.1, but we can remember names like www.searchWin2000. DNS handles the translation from the human-friendly names to the computer-friendly IP addresses.

So, it all sounds very simple, but the question is, how do you get DNS? Do you need to install it yourself? How does it work with the servers you set up, and how does it work with the workstations you have on your network?

Well, yes, you should have a DNS server operating in your domain, unless your domain is so small that you can use the one that your ISP has set up. Most users of this site will not be in that situation. Fortunately, DNS comes as a service in Windows. For Windows NT 4.0, you start the service as you would any other service, namely through the Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Services, and find the DNS Server service. Set its start mode to automatic, and you'll have a DNS server operating on your network, once it's actually started. In Windows 2000, go to the Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, and click on Add/Remove Windows components. You can click here for basic information from Microsoft on Windows 2000 DNS installation.

But you're not done. You have to configure the server at this point, and that takes some data entry and fiddling. Microsoft has instructions for configuring Windows NT 4.0 servers on its Web site. And there's an FAQ on Windows 2000 DNS on the Microsoft site as well.

David Gabel is TechTarget's Executive Technology Editor.

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