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Tanya Valdez is a Technical Writer at Constellix. She makes the information-transfer material digestible through her own transfer of information to our customers and readers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
It is most certainly not the answer-in-the-form-of-a-question that you would be hearing in a game of Jeopardy. A DNS zone file is a fundamental part of DNS and how domains operate on the internet. DNS consists of domains within the DNS namespace. There are also DNS zones, which are the physical location in which the information is stored. DNS zone files are text-based files that describe a zone (which is typically a single domain) and contain the contents of a DNS cache. They are the binding between domain names, IP addresses, and related sources.
The DNS Zone file hosts all of the records for the zone that are stored on the DNS server and are used by the authoritative nameserver to perform DNS lookups for the domain. They are managed by the organization’s administrator. Essentially, it is an administrative space within the DNS environment that defines procedures for proper operations in relation to the domain.
There are different types of DNS Zones.
DNS zone files include directives that tell the nameserver what tasks to perform. They can also store special settings to apply to the zone. A $ symbol is used to indicate the beginning of a directive.
Each zone file begins with the Time to Live (TTL) to specify how long the records will be kept on the server’s cache. The zone file also includes a Start of Authority (SOA) record, which shares the administrative information about the zone, such as its name, serial number, and e-mail address of the administrator. All records that have been configured in the DNS management portal are stored on the server. They further define the domain and dictate actions that the server needs to take according to the rules set in the record.
Tip: See our DNS Record Types Cheat Sheet for a downloadable resource of the most common record types and their purpose.
Here is an example of what the beginning of a DNS zone file would look like:
The information below this point would include the nameservers and mail servers for the domain and any configured records.
There are three directives:
DNS zone files are stored on the DNS server and are used by the authoritative nameserver to perform DNS lookups for the domain. They hold pertinent information about the zone, such as configured records that direct how to handle incoming requests. These files also include zone file directives, such as $TTL and $ORIGIN which define the time to live and the base name for unqualified records. The contents are maintained by the domain’s administrator and all of their contact information is listed within the file.
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