What do the different types of DNS records mean?

While managing your domain names you may have seen that there are many different types of DNS records that you can create in the DNS manager for your domain name.

Here is a quick overview of some of the most common DNS record types.

Record TypeDescription
SOA The SOA or Start of Authority record is a special resource record that must be included in every domain's DNS zone file. The SOA record contains basic information about the DNS servers that are responsible for the domain (the domain's authoritative nameserver), as well as how long the DNS records for the given domain should be cached by other name servers (ie, by ISPs or your desktop/laptop computer) before being checked for updates to the record.
A Possibly the most common and useful kind of DNS record, A type records are used to direct a domain name (ie, example.com) to an IPv4 address, which is what computers will use to find your website on the internet. An IPv4 address could look something like this: 94.142.241.111
AAAA AAAA records are similar to A records. AAAA records are used to direct a domain name to an IPv6 address. IPv6 is the newer standard for internet networking addresses that was introduced due to a lack of available IPv4 addresses. An IPv6 address could look something like this: 2a02:898:17:8000::42
CNAME CNAME (or Canonical Name) records are used to alias one domain to another existing A or AAAA record. As an example, if you have a website set up at example.com you could have a matching CNAME record for www.example.com which would alias it to the same IP address as the non-www domain. If a user changes the IP address in the A or AAAA record, the CNAME will be updated automatically. 
MX MX or Mail Exchange records are used to direct email traffic on the network to the correct mail server for your domain. MX records must always point to domain names in another zone (ie an existing A record) and should never be set to an IP address. The IP address of a mail server should always be resolved by looking up its respective A record.
TXT

TXT records allow small amounts of arbitrary data to be stored in a domains DNS zone file. TXT records are often used to set up SPF and DKIM records - these specify which IP addresses are allowed to send email for a domain, and help to aid in the reduction of spam emails.

Some service providers also use TXT records to verify that a user owns or has control of a domain name before allowing access to a service, such as Google Analytics or the Google Search console, as well as some 3rd party email providers.

NS NS or Name Server records specify which DNS servers on the internet are responsible for serving information about a domains DNS zone records.
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