What the hell is an A-Record?

This blog post was originally written for LegRoom Agency and was published in October, 2016.

You’re in the Monday morning WIP, exhausted from binge-watching Daredevil on Netflix all night, and your boss asks you to update the ‘A record’ for XX client. Your enthusiastic “roger that!” slowly turns into an ‘…update the what now?’. Anxiety sets in.

A quick Google search doesn’t help you, if anything, it makes it worse – we know the internet has never been very good at ‘dumbing down’ tech talk.

Let’s bring it right down to basics – the A in A-Record stands for address. We’re working in the digital space, so you can probably guess that we’re referring to the domain name… in a sense.

An A-Record is a cluster of numbers, similar to an IP address. Let’s use Google.com.au as an example. To reach Google.com.au, your computer needs to look up the A-Record for this website, to draw the information it needs to display the website.

Google’s A record is 216.58.218.195. You’ll notice that typing http://216.58.218.195 into your browser’s address bar will take you straight to Google.com.au.

The URL for a website, in this case, google.com.au, is what we call a domain name. We use these because it’s far easier to remember than a string of numbers and dots.

When it comes to researching A-Records, you’ll see the phrase DNS, or Domain Name System a lot. A DNS is a database of every website, and the information (or the A-Record) the computer needs to find them. When you begin searching in your browser, your computer looks up the database for the site, to know where it needs to go.

So, now that you’ve (hopefully) managed to come to terms with what an A-Record is, how do you update it? The short answer? You probably shouldn’t. They can be complex if you have limited IT knowledge. Which, if we’re being brutally honest, you probably do – why else would you be reading through this post?

You’ll find that the company’s IT tech, the website’s host, or one of the developers who set up the site will more than likely know how to update the A-Record.

If you’re feeling a little reckless and want to channel your inner Matt Murdock, potentially crashing your client’s site in the process, read on!

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You’ll need to log into your account and access the DNS zone editor. Here you’ll see an option to add an A-Record, add a CNAME Record, and you’ll more than likely see a list of user-defined records.

You’ll need to enter the A-Record you’ve been supplied with, which should look something like 216.58.218.195. You might also be prompted to enter a sub-domain, but this isn’t a necessity.

From here, you can click save/update/add record, and it will be applied immediately (although, it can take anywhere up to 24 hours to propagate across the internet, depending on your host).

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We’ll admit that it isn’t the most complicated process once you look at each step broken down, but we’re also sympathetic to the fact that a lot of people have no idea what an A-Record is… If it’s a completely foreign concept to you, understanding how a string of numbers can point you to a domain name might be difficult. Even so, we hope we’ve managed to teach you a little something, without getting too techy!

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