A domain name is your website name, which is used by internet users to access your website. A domain name is used for finding and identifying computers on the Internet. Computers use IP (Internet Protocols) addresses, which are a series of numbers. However, it is difficult for humans to remember strings of numbers. Because of this, domain names were developed and used to identify entities on the Internet rather than using IP addresses.
A domain name can be any combination of letters and numbers, and it can be used in combination of the various domain name extensions, such as .com, .net and more.
The domain name must be registered before you can use it. Every domain name is unique. No two websites can have the same domain name. If someone types in www.yourdomain.com, it will go to your website and no one else’s.
Simply put, think of it like a road sign on the side of the “internet highway”. This road sign has a bunch of signs on it that point to the various aspects of your online presence. These various signs are what make up the DNS (Domain Naming System) or pointing system for your specific domain. Some of the most common items are explained in detail below.
The main sign points to where your website lives (think of it as your home address, it’s specific to you or in this case specific to your domain). This main sign is of the type called an “A Record”. The address it points to is in the form of an IP Address. When people type in, or click a link for your domain name it checks this sign (or A Record) and directs them to the IP Address of the web hosting server. From there the web server takes over the request.
Another possible sign on the domain signpost are subdomains. A sample of a subdomain would be shop.yourdomain.com or perhaps info.yourdomain.com. This subdomain is a way to create unique sections of your website or have a totally separate website as a section of your main site. It’s like a specific location of your home, like pointing to the garage.
Subdomains can point to an IP address like an A Record… or they can point to a URL like a CNAME record. A CNAME is a setting that allows you to create other subdomains similar to a subdomain A Record, but instead of pointing to the IP address it points to an actual URL or Web Address. This gets a little more complicated, but you can think of it like redirecting mail to another location, you may live somewhere, but want your mail forwarded to another place.
The sign on your signpost (Domain) that controls your email is called an MX Record, or Mail Exchanger Record. What this is for is to signify where the email provider “lives”. Your website and your email can be provided by totally separate companies. Your MX Record has to be pointed to your email provider’s MX records; otherwise your email simply won’t work.