DNS, or Domain Name Service for the layperson, is a very integral part of the internet. Without DNS, the internet would be on “hard-mode” all the time. It would be like the days before speed-dial when you had to actually REMEMBER everyone’s phone number like some sort of Einstein-esque genius. Have you ever lost your phone before and tried to call someone? It’s hard. I seriously should have gotten a Nobel Prize for knowing all of my best friends’ phone numbers by heart back in the day, but I digress.
What DNS essentially does is map domain names to IP addresses, as the IP’s are what’s actually used to connect you to the website itself. URL’s are basically just shortcuts that are designed to make it easier to surf the internet. But how does that work? Well it’s magic. Plain and simple (don’t worry, I promise this answer will hold up in any job interview but only if you smug up your face while you say it).
All joking aside, it is pretty magical but it’s not supernatural by any means. Check it out.
Let’s start with your computer, represented by this little guy right here.
For example purposes, lets say you wanted to visit Facebook. You’d open up a browser and type “facebook.com“ into the url field. This is where the magic happens. Your computer then sends a request to the local DNS server.
The DNS server acts sort of like a phone directory. It receives your “facebook.com” request, retrieves the IP address for that domain, and then sends it right back to your computer.
Now that your computer has the IP, it knows the way to San Jose (shouts out to Dionne Warwick). It takes that IP and uses it to connect you to “facebook.com” where you are free to view advertisements, post pictures of just your face that you took yourself, “like” pictures of other people’s faces that they took themselves, etc.
There are other variables and whatnots that can complicate this “connecting to a website” process depending on the situation, but if we were to boil it all down simply, this is about what it would look like.
I know I’m not the greatest artist, but that’s beside the point.
Looking at it from an overhead view like this really outlines the importance of having DNS security implemented on your network. If that DNS server in the diagram were OpenDNS, then you could see how we would be positioned in such a way that could potentially keep your computer from ever coming in contact with infected domains! Or, even better yet, if you didn’t want people visiting “facebook.com” on your network, you could use OpenDNS to prohibit that from happening too!
So there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this crash course on DNS. So the next time someone asks you if you know where DNS lies in the landscape of internet protocol, you should have no problem drawing them a picture.