Real SMB IT: DNS, MX, What Is It? (And Why Should I Care?)
November 13, 2009
Could your business be kicked completely off the Internet?
The answer is yes!By kicked off the Internet, I mean invisible. Impossible to find.
So lets start with a little background.
At its most basic, all computers on the Internet communicate with each other with a unique number called an Internet Protocol (IP) address. As an analogy, just imagine this number as similar to a phone number.
But! when you visit a Web Site, or send an e-mail, you are using words, not numbers. you type in the http://www.yourcompany.com, or you send me an email by typing elliotross@company_name.ca
Since the computers communicate with each other via IP address numbers, and we humans prefer text and words, something is needed to translate those human readable words, into the machine readable numbers.
If you think of a phone book, you look up the words Elliot Ross which points to the listing for my telephone number. The domain naming system (DNS) provides a similar ability for our computers to translate human readable text we type into the machine IP address.
If you want to see this in action, simply open your Web Browser and paste these numbers into the address bar: 220.127.116.11
You will see the Google Web Site appear. (at least at the time of this writing!) I say at the time of this writing, because the machine readable number can be changed, and just like the phone book, If I change my phone number, as long as Elliot Ross is pointed to that new phone number – you won’t have any problem.
That little MX just stands for Mail eXchanger, in other words, when you send me an e-mail, that little MX tells the internet that to reach me by e-mail, “send that e-mail to this server over here!”
And Why Should You Care?
The first and easiest, if you think you cannot get on the Internet when you type in a company name, DNS problems are a common source of the issue.
But that is NOT what this is about
A SMB that I am acquainted with had an issue where an unknown individual tried to hi-jack that DNS information from them, and make it point to servers that were not associated with their business.
To continue with my phone book analogy, imagine that when you look up my name, the phone number that my name points to is yours, not mine.
So I would never get any calls.
Except on the Web, it is not missing some phone calls, it means that you completely disappear from the Internet. No Web Site, no e-mail. Nada.
There are checks and balances to make this difficult to do, but it goes to emphasize;
You must make sure all critical information about your on-line presence is owned by you.
Not your supplier.
Not your contractor.
That includes the contact information for your Internet domain and its DNS records. They may help you set that information up, but the contact name and information must be yours.
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Photo Credit merfam via flickr