Understanding Domain Name Records
A "domain name" (refer to Understanding
the Domain Name for a discussion on what a domain is and what
it can do for your business) is very similar to your home
address in many ways: it tells the Internet where to find your
website just as an address tells a visitor where to find your
home. Your home has multiple identifying records (a plat number,
a longitude and latitude coordinate... etc.). The same is true
of domain names; they have multiple records that identify their
Every domain name has multiple records. Each record identifies
a particular attribute. The most important records for the purposes
of this posting are: A records, MX records, CNAME record, NS,
Although the legal parties to a domain name are not records per
se, they are every bit as important, so we'll discuss them here.
The parties include: Registrar, Registrant, Administrative Contact,
Technical Contact, and Billing Contact.
An "A Record" is an "address record", and
it is the most important record of your domain name. It tells
the Internet where to find your website. The process occurs by
providing a map from the domain host location to the web host
location. If the "A record" is incorrect, then your
website will not be accessible.
CNAME stands for canonical name record. It is an alias for the
"A record". In some situations, a company may want to
use a CNAME for marketing purposes so that a more recognizable
name is employed, rather than the actual "A record"
name. In most instances, a CNAME is used for one of multiple services
ran on a single server with a single IP address.
IP stands for Internet Protocol.
The MX record is the mail exchange record. That record provides
the map to the mail exchange server handling the mail for a particular
NS stands for name server. The NS record maps the domain name
to the domain name server. The NS record is a domain name that
is registered with the IP address of the authoritative servers
for that domain name. When setting up a domain name on a server,
the NS record is used to specify the named server upon which the
domain name will be located. Subsequent domains may then be located
on that server, and each will contain a registered NS record.
SOA stands for "start of authority". The SOA record
contains the name of the domain name server where information
resides regarding the domain name. That information includes authoritative
domain information, the server's identification number, and the
authorized administrator's email address.
Registrar, Registrant, Administrative Contact, Technical
Contact, and Billing Contact
If anyone "owns" a domain, it would be NIC - the international
Network Information Centre. NIC is a domain name registry. NIC
ensures that only one occurrence of a domain name exists. All
registrars are listed with ICANN, and are assigned various authorities
(which have changed over time). Today, there are many registrars
that sell licenses for domain name, but fewer who actually control
the relationship of a domain name to its owner. Some of the more
familiar registrars are ENOM, Network Solutions, GoDaddy, and
The registrant is the person who holds the right to use a domain.
Although not directly parallel to a lease agreement, the agreement
between the registrant and the registrar is similar to a lease
wherein the registrant pays an annual fee for the right to use
a domain name subject to the rules and conditions set forth by
the registrant, which are in turn approved by ICANN. The registrant
holds the right to defend a domain name.
The registrant may assign all or some of his or her rights to
other parties or companies; however, registrants should retain
The administrative contact for a domain name is one of the rights
that a registrant should retain because this contact controls
all other rights. The administrative contact manages the domain,
approves or denies domain ownership changes or hosting, and authority
to change the contact information for the domain and all other
The technical contact for a domain is assigned by the administrative
contact. The technical contact handles maintaining the map for
the domain (the domain name servers) and the directions (domain
name pointers). The technical contact can also handle domain name
configurations. A registrant may assign the rights of the technical
contact (and usually does) to the person responsible for the location
and care of the website.
The billing contact for a domain name is the person charged with
the responsibility of ensuring payment of the annual licensing
fee for a domain name. If the fee is not paid, the billing contact
is notified. A registrant should remain authority of the billing