DNS Configuration on a Unix Hosting Machine

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Dimitri Nek
Dimitri Nek
Web Hosting Geek

name server

The DNS is a fundamental building block of the internet, translating human-readable domain names into IP addresses.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of configuring DNS on a Unix hosting server and provide a comprehensive guide to help you set up and manage DNS services effectively.

We’ll cover various aspects, from understanding how DNS works to implementing best practices for performance and security.

By the end of this article, you’ll have gained valuable insights and skills to ensure your Unix hosting server is properly configured for optimal DNS performance.

The Fundamentals of DNS

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical and decentralized system responsible for translating human-readable domain names into IP addresses. This process, called resolution, allows users to access websites and other online resources using familiar names instead of numerical IP addresses.

How DNS Works

When a user enters a domain name into their browser, the following steps occur:

  1. The browser sends a DNS query to a recursive resolver.
  2. The resolver asks the root server for the top-level domain (TLD) information.
  3. The root server directs the resolver to the appropriate TLD server.
  4. The TLD server provides the address of the authoritative name server.
  5. The resolver queries the authoritative name server for the domain’s IP address.
  6. The authoritative name server returns the IP address to the resolver.
  7. The resolver forwards the IP address to the browser.
  8. The browser connects to the web server using the IP address and requests the web page.

DNS Records

DNS records are the core components of DNS, containing information about domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. Different types of records serve different purposes, such as resolving domain names, handling email, and facilitating domain redirection.

A few of the most common DNS record types include:

  • A (Address) Record: Maps a domain name to an IPv4 address.
  • AAAA (IPv6 Address) Record: Maps a domain name to an IPv6 address.
  • CNAME (Canonical Name) Record: Creates an alias for another domain name.
  • MX (Mail Exchange) Record: Directs email to the correct mail server.
  • TXT (Text) Record: Contains arbitrary text data, often used for email security (SPF, DKIM, DMARC) or domain verification.

Configuring DNS on a Unix Hosting Server

When configuring DNS on a Unix hosting server, you have several DNS server software options to choose from.

Here are three popular choices:

Server Description
Bind Bind (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) is the most widely used DNS server software on Unix systems. It is known for its high level of configurability, performance, and extensive feature set, making it suitable for large-scale deployments.
Unbound Unbound is a modern, secure, and easy-to-use DNS server designed primarily for recursive querying and caching. It focuses on simplicity, efficiency, and security, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized organizations.
PowerDNS PowerDNS is a versatile DNS server software that offers a wide range of features and excellent performance. It is known for its flexibility, ease of use, and compatibility with various backends such as SQL databases, making it an attractive option for organizations with diverse requirements.
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Installing a DNS Server

To install a DNS server on your Unix hosting server, follow these general steps (specific instructions may vary depending on your chosen software and Unix distribution):

  1. Update your package list using your system’s package manager (apt-get update or yum update).
  2. Install the desired DNS server software using the package manager (apt-get install bind9 or yum install unbound).
  3. Locate the server’s configuration file, usually located in the /etc directory (/etc/bind/named.conf for Bind or /etc/unbound/unbound.conf for Unbound).
  4. Edit the configuration file to suit your requirements, including setting up DNS zones, forwarding, and caching.
  5. Test your configuration using the provided tools or utilities, such as named-checkconf for Bind or unbound-checkconf for Unbound.
  6. Start the DNS server using the appropriate command (systemctl start bind9 or systemctl start unbound).
  7. Enable the DNS server to start on boot by running the necessary command (systemctl enable bind9 or systemctl enable unbound).
  8. Configure your system’s resolver to use the newly installed DNS server by editing the /etc/resolv.conf file.

Setting Up DNS Zones

A DNS zone is a portion of the domain namespace for which a particular DNS server is responsible. To set up DNS zones on your Unix hosting server, follow these steps:

  1. Create a zone file for your domain in the appropriate directory, usually /etc/bind/zones for Bind or /etc/unbound/zones for Unbound.
  2. Edit the zone file to include the necessary DNS records for your domain, such as A, AAAA, CNAME, and MX records. Ensure that you configure the correct Start of Authority (SOA) record, which contains information about the zone and its authoritative name server.
  3. Update the DNS server’s configuration file to include the newly created zone. For Bind, this typically involves editing the /etc/bind/named.conf.local file, while for Unbound, you would modify the /etc/unbound/unbound.conf file.
  4. Reload the DNS server to apply the changes using the appropriate command (systemctl reload bind9 or systemctl reload unbound).
  5. Test the zone configuration using tools like dig, nslookup, or online DNS checkers to ensure that your DNS records are resolving correctly.

Configuring DNS Forwarding

DNS forwarding allows your DNS server to pass queries it cannot resolve to other DNS servers for resolution.

To configure DNS forwarding on your Unix hosting server, follow these steps:

Open your DNS server’s configuration file (/etc/bind/named.conf.options for Bind or /etc/unbound/unbound.conf for Unbound).

For Bind, add the following lines within the options block, replacing X.X.X.X and Y.Y.Y.Y with the IP addresses of the desired forwarders:

forwarders {

For Unbound, add the following lines within the server block:

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name: "."
forward-addr: X.X.X.X
forward-addr: Y.Y.Y.Y

Save the configuration file and reload the DNS server to apply the changes.

Configuring DNS Caching

DNS caching improves query resolution performance by storing previously resolved DNS records for a specified period.

To enable DNS caching on your Unix hosting server, follow these steps:

For Bind, caching is enabled by default, and you can adjust the cache settings in the /etc/bind/named.conf.options file.

For Unbound, open the /etc/unbound/unbound.conf file and locate the cache-min-ttl and cache-max-ttl settings within the server block. Adjust these values to control the minimum and maximum time-to-live (TTL) for cached records, respectively.

cache-min-ttl: 300
cache-max-ttl: 86400

Save the configuration file and reload the DNS server to apply the changes.

By following these steps, you’ll have a fully functional DNS server on your Unix hosting server that is capable of handling DNS queries, forwarding, and caching. This will ensure that your domain names resolve correctly and efficiently, providing a solid foundation for your online services.

Best Practices for DNS Performance and Security

Performance Optimization

To optimize the performance of your DNS server, consider implementing the following best practices:

  1. Enable caching: Caching stores the results of previous DNS queries to reduce the response time for subsequent requests.
  2. Use forwarders: Forwarders are DNS servers that handle queries on behalf of your server, reducing the load on your DNS server and speeding up query resolution.
  3. Monitor server load: Regularly check your server’s resource usage to identify potential bottlenecks and ensure optimal performance.

Security Measures

Implementing security measures is essential to protect your DNS server from various threats, such as DNS cache poisoning and DDoS attacks.

Consider the following security best practices:

  1. Keep software up-to-date: Regularly update your DNS server software and operating system to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  2. Restrict access: Limit access to your DNS server by using firewalls, IP address whitelisting, and access control lists (ACLs).
  3. Implement DNSSEC: DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) is a security protocol that provides authentication and integrity protection for DNS data.

Troubleshooting Common DNS Issues

Identifying DNS Issues

Common DNS issues can manifest in various ways, such as slow website loading times, website unavailability, or email delivery problems.

Use the following tools and techniques to identify and diagnose DNS issues:

  1. Query tools: dig, nslookup, and host are command-line tools for querying DNS servers and diagnosing issues.
  2. Log analysis: Review your DNS server logs to identify potential errors, misconfigurations, or security incidents.
  3. Online checkers: Websites like DNSstuff, IntoDNS, and MXToolbox offer online tools for testing your DNS configuration and identifying potential issues.

Resolving DNS Issues

Once you’ve identified the root cause of a DNS issue, take the appropriate steps to resolve it:

  1. Review and correct DNS configurations, such as zone files, server settings, and resolver settings.
  2. Check the health of your DNS server, including resource usage, service status, and log files.
  3. Consult documentation, community forums, or support channels for assistance in resolving complex issues.
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Configuring DNS on a Unix hosting server is a critical task that ensures reliable internet connectivity for websites and online services.

By understanding the basics of DNS, installing and configuring a DNS server, implementing best practices for performance and security, and troubleshooting common issues, you’ll be well-equipped to manage your DNS services effectively.

With the knowledge gained in this article, you’ll be able to optimize your Unix hosting server for DNS performance and provide a seamless experience for your users.

With this comprehensive guide, you now have a solid foundation in DNS fundamentals and how to configure, manage, and maintain DNS services on a Unix hosting server. This knowledge is crucial for ensuring that your websites and online services remain accessible, responsive, and secure.


  1. What is the difference between authoritative and recursive DNS servers?

    Authoritative DNS servers hold the DNS records for specific domains and are responsible for providing the correct IP addresses for those domains. Recursive DNS servers, on the other hand, are responsible for resolving domain names on behalf of clients by querying authoritative servers in a step-by-step process until they obtain the required IP address.

  2. How often do DNS records update?

    The update frequency of DNS records depends on their Time to Live (TTL) value, which is set by the domain owner or administrator. TTL is measured in seconds and determines how long a record is cached by DNS resolvers before it’s considered outdated and needs to be refreshed. Typical TTL values range from a few minutes to several hours or even days.

  3. Can I run multiple DNS servers for redundancy?

    Yes, running multiple DNS servers is recommended for redundancy and improved availability. By setting up multiple authoritative servers (called primary and secondary servers), you can ensure that your DNS records remain available even if one server goes offline or encounters issues. Similarly, configuring multiple recursive servers can enhance the reliability and performance of DNS resolution for your users.

  4. How can I test if my DNS server is working correctly?

    To test if your DNS server is working correctly, you can use command-line tools like `dig`, `nslookup`, or `host` to query your server for specific domain names and verify that the responses are correct. Additionally, you can use online DNS checkers to test your server’s configuration and performance from different locations, providing a more comprehensive assessment of its functionality.

  5. How do I migrate my DNS server to another hosting provider?

    To migrate your DNS server to another hosting provider, follow these steps: 1. Set up a new DNS server at the new hosting provider, replicating your existing server’s configuration and zone files. 2. Test the new server to ensure it is functioning correctly. 3. Update your domain’s registrar to point to the new DNS server’s IP address. 4. Allow sufficient time for DNS propagation to occur, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to 48 hours, depending on the TTL values of your records. 5. Monitor both the old and new servers during the transition period to ensure a smooth migration. 6. Once you’re confident that the new server is functioning correctly and all DNS queries are being resolved by it, you can decommission the old DNS server.


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