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DNS Basics

Published: June 8, 2012

Updated: September 10, 2015

Applies To: Azure, Windows Intune

Please bear with us as we migrate this and other content to the Microsoft Azure website. This topic is no longer being updated and might become out of date. Please bookmark the updated Azure article on this subject, Add your own domain name to Azure AD.

Domains are managed by using a worldwide system of domain registrars and databases. The Domain Name System (DNS) provides a mapping between human-readable computer hostnames and the IP addresses used by networking equipment. An understanding of DNS and domain registrar basics will help administrators manage domains in your Microsoft Azure AD tenant. For more information about your Microsoft Azure AD tenant, see What is an Azure AD tenant?

Also, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of DNS and the difference between domain registrars and domain hosting services. Understanding these terms can help you understand how to register and manage domains. For more information, see Domain Name System.

Domain names

Domain names are used in URLs and email addresses associated with one or more IP addresses. Domain names are constructed in levels. For example, is a domain name with the following three levels:

  • .com is the top-level domain

  • contoso is the second-level domain

  • mail is the third-level domain

    Sometimes third-level domains are used to designate webpages that serve specific functions, such as

For more information, see Work with domain names and DNS records in Azure AD.

Understand DNS record types and functions

DNS records are used to direct traffic to and from your domain. These records associate a domain name with a specific IP address. The following table lists frequently used DNS records and their functions.


Name server record

Identifies which name servers are the authoritative name servers for a specific domain. DNS information can be cached in several name servers for a period of time, but when the cache expires, non-authoritative name servers contact the authoritative name server for updated information about a domain.

A record (address record)

Associates a domain name with an IP address.

CNAME (alias or canonical name) record

Specifies that the domain name is an alias of another canonical domain name. When a name server looks up a domain and finds a CNAME record, it replaces the first domain name with the CNAME and then looks up the new name.

MX (mail exchanger) record

Identifies the server to which email is directed. It also contains a priority field so that mail can be directed to multiple servers in a prescribed order.

SPF (sender policy framework)

An email validation system designed to help prevent email spoofing and phishing.

SRV (service record)

Specifies information about available services. SRV records are used by some Microsoft cloud services such as Lync Online and Exchange Online to coordinate the flow of information between services.

TTL (time-to-live)

The amount of time that a DNS record is retained or cached by a name server or other servers before the server does another lookup on the authoritative name server. You use this to control the number of queries made to a given name server.

See Also

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