DNS resolution: Understanding an essential part of running modern IT infrastructures

Domain Name System (DNS) resolution, also known as a DNS lookup, is one of the fundamental components required to establish connectivity and communication in modern IT infrastructures. It's the process of mapping human-readable domains or hostnames with machine-readable IP addresses, making it easier for users to access hosts on the orgnization's public and private networks. At the most basic level, DNS resolution or lookup enables the resolution of domain names into IP addresses, which is essential for accessing websites, email servers, and other online resources.

In this article, we will look into:

Types of DNS lookups

Performing a DNS lookup involves several components, including a DNS resolver tool, which can be a standalone software application or part of an integrated IP address management solution, a DNS server, or a DNS database containing the IP-host association details.

Common types of DNS resolution techniques include:

  • Recursive DNS lookup: The most common type of DNS resolution used today. In a recursive DNS lookup, when a DNS resolver queries a DNS server for an IP-host association detail, the queried DNS server checks its database for the requested record. If the IP-host association is not recorded, the DNS server queries other DNS servers until the record is found or until it is established that no such record exists.
  • Iterative DNS lookup: A similar and less efficient alternative to recursive DNS lookups. In iterative DNS resolution, the queried DNS server returns the best match information for an IP host resolution request. If the returned information is incomplete, the DNS resolver must again query a different DNS server. The process is iteratively repeated until the IP-host association record is found or until it is established that no such record exists.
  • Root DNS lookup: A specialized DNS lookup technique that offers a more streamlined approach to perform DNS resolution. In a root DNS lookup, the DNS resolver tool queries the root DNS regarding the IP-host association detail. The root DNS replies with the information of the top-level domain (TLD) DNS servers that contain the queried information. The DNS resolver then queries the TLD servers to reach the required IP-host association detail.
  • Load balancing DNS lookup: A method used to ensure that a single DNS server is not overburdened with resolution queries. In a load balancing DNS lookup, the DNS resolver is configured to query multiple DNS servers in a particular order. This distributes the load of DNS lookups across multiple DNS servers.
  • Cached DNS lookup: A more efficient approach to performing DNS resolution. In a cached DNS lookup, the DNS resolver tool stores the previous DNS resolution records in its cache. When a DNS resolution is triggered, the DNS resolver first checks its cache. If the record is not found in the cache, it then queries the DNS server.
  • Geolocation-based DNS lookup: A method used to query DNS servers based on the location of the user. In geolocation-based DNS lookups, the DNS resolver queries the nearest DNS server to the user's location.

Challenges in running DNS lookups in complex networks

Despite being indispensable to modern IT infrastructures, DNS lookups might run into hurdles due to issues with DNS servers, network links, and other networking components. Some of the common challenges in running DNS lookups include:

  • Latency: Prolonged delays in DNS lookup processes can result in slow resource load times and a poor user experience. Latency in DNS resolution can be caused by a number of networking factors, including network congestion, DNS server performance, and the distance between the user and the DNS server in cases such as geolocation-based DNS lookup.
  • Security: DNS caches, database records, and other dependent DNS processes are vulnerable to several security threats, including DNS spoofing and DNS cache poisoning. These threats can compromise the security of a user's personal and sensitive information along with threating an organization's data integrity and confidentiality.
  • Scalability: As networks continue to scale, the number of DNS servers deployed, the DNS records maintained, and the list of online resource associated with the network's IP address grow in tandem. It is important to address scalability issues by implementing effective solutions, such as caching and load balancing, to ensure that the DNS lookup process remains reliable and efficient.

The importance of DNS resolution in modern IT infrastructures

Behind the scenes of enabling uninterrupted access to resources hosted on an orgnization's private and public networks is DNS lookups. DNS resolution plays a vital role in enabling end users to seamlessly access the hosted resources with human-readable domain names instead of numeric IP addresses. With modern IT infrastructure's move towards advanced networking concepts, including digital transformation, DNS lookups and efficient DNS record resolution have become indispensable.

Key features that make DNS lookups important in modern IT infrastructures include:

  • Improving the end-user experience: End users constantly access resources hosted on an orgnization's private and public networks. When a user enters a domain or application name into their web browser, the DNS lookup process resolves the name into an IP address, allowing the user to connect to the desired online resource. This requires fast and effective DNS resolution. Network admins need to ensure that the IP-host association records of critical hosted applications and services are reachable to perform end users' DNS lookups quickly.
  • Ensuring reliability and availability: DNS resolution ensures the availability and reachability of resources hosted online. By resolving the hosted resource names into IP addresses, the DNS resolution process enables users to access the resources even if the hosted IP address changes. This is ensured by the capability of the DNS servers to continually refresh their IP host association data based on network changes, thereby allowing end users to access online resources uninterrupted.
  • Enhancing a network's cybersecurity: DNS lookup plays an important role in identifying several security attacks, including DNS spoofing attacks. Attacks such as DNS spoofing redirect users looking up an authorized online resource to a malicious site, causing a serious network security risk. By constantly running DNS lookups to verify the host associated with a particular IP, network admins can enhance a network's cybersecurity defenses, such as by verifying that the domain name matches the correct IP address before directing the user to a website.

Best practices for configuring and managing DNS lookups

DNS monitoring: Regularly monitor the performance of your DNS resolver to ensure that it is functioning as required and resolving any issues quickly. Regularly updating your DNS software helps ensure that you are using the most secure and efficient version.

  • Using reliable DNS servers: Select a trustworthy DNS provider with a proven track record to ensure that your domain names are resolved accurately and promptly. It is important to use reliable and secure DNS servers to ensure the reliability and security of the DNS lookup process. This can be achieved by using managed DNS services or by configuring a local DNS server.
  • Implementing security measures: Implement security measures such as DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) to protect against DNS-based attacks and ensure the integrity of the information being transmitted.
  • Configuring DNS caching: DNS caching can significantly improve the performance of the DNS lookup process by reducing the number of queries that must be made to the DNS server. It is important to configure DNS caching on all devices that perform DNS lookups to take advantage of this performance improvement.
  • Tracking your IP address space: IP addresses play an important role in assessing the accuracy and security of DNS resolution results. This makes it important to track the availability, utilization, and status of IP addresses used to host your orgnization's online resources.

Getting started with an effective DNS resolver: Meet OpUtils!

ManageEngine OpUtils is a trusted IP address manager and switch port mapper used by IT admins worldwide. This comprehensive IP address management solution offers a built-in DNS Resolver as a part of its centralized network Toolset. This fast and simple DNS resolver tool helps you run DNS lookups across your entire network, including across multiple subnets and remote locations, right from your console.

The DNS lookup displays to you the DNS name, IP address, status, and response time of the queried IP or host. This aids in identifying issues such as latency or DNS record mismatch, and in ensuring that the hosted services are authorized services and do not pose any malicious intent.

OpUtils offers more than just DNS resolution. Explore its advanced IP scanning, IP address tracking, and port scanning capabilities hands-on by downloading a free, 30-day trial.

New to OpUtils? Schedule a live, personalized demo with our product experts and experience how OpUtils simplifies IP address management for your complex IT infrastructure.