Authoritative DNS server: Beginners guide

In the vast networking and internet infrastructure landscape, Domain Name System (DNS) plays a crucial role in translating human-readable domain names into machine-readable IP addresses. Authoritative DNS servers hold a significant position among the various components of the DNS ecosystem. In this beginner’s guide, we will delve into the fundamentals and explain how they contribute to the seamless functioning of the Internet.

Understanding DNS Basics

Before diving into authoritative DNS servers, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how DNS works. When you type a web address into your browser, such as, your computer needs to obtain the corresponding IP address to establish a connection with the website. DNS servers facilitate this process by translating domain names into IP addresses.

DNS operates in a hierarchical structure, consisting of various types of servers, including recursive DNS servers and authoritative DNS servers. While recursive servers assist in fetching information from authoritative servers, authoritative servers are responsible for holding and providing the official information for a particular domain.

Authoritative DNS server vs. Recursive DNS server

What is an Authoritative DNS Server?

An authoritative DNS server is a DNS server that holds the official records for a specific domain. These records include information such as IP addresses, mail servers, and other essential data associated with the domain. When a DNS query is made for a particular domain, these DNS servers are responsible for providing the accurate and up-to-date information needed to establish a connection.

Types of Authoritative DNS Servers

There are two main types of authoritative DNS servers: primary and secondary.

  • Primary DNS Server: It is the primary source for the DNS records of a domain. It is where the original and definitive DNS records are stored. Changes and updates to DNS records are made on the primary server.
  • Secondary Authoritative DNS Server: It obtains a copy of DNS records from the primary server. It serves as a backup and helps distribute the DNS query load, improving reliability and performance. If the primary server is unavailable, the secondary server can still respond to DNS queries.

How Authoritative DNS Servers Work?

When a DNS query is initiated, it follows a sequence of steps involving both recursive and authoritative DNS servers. Here’s a simplified overview:

  1. A user initiates a DNS query by entering a domain name (e.g., into a web browser.
  2. The recursive DNS server, provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or a third-party DNS service, processes the query.
  3. If the recursive server does not have the required information in its cache, it contacts the authoritative DNS server for the specific domain.
  4. The authoritative DNS server responds with the accurate IP address or other requested information.
  5. The recursive DNS server caches the information for future use and returns the result to the user’s device.
  6. Subsequent queries for the same domain can be resolved from the cached information on the recursive server.


Authoritative DNS servers are fundamental components of the DNS infrastructure, ensuring the accurate and efficient resolution of domain names to IP addresses. Understanding their role is crucial for anyone involved in networking, web development, or IT administration. As you delve deeper into the world of DNS, knowing these servers will empower you to manage and optimize the domain resolution process for a smoother internet experience.