DNS Propagation – what is it and why does it take so long?

What is DNS and how does it work?

DNS stands for “Domain Name System”. Domain names are the human-readable website addresses we use every day. Behind the scenes, the Internet and other networks use numerical IP addresses (“Internet Protocol” addresses). DNS matches human-readable names to numbers that machines can more easily understand.

Every ISP on the Internet has their own DNS Servers which direct the people who are using that ISP to the location they are looking for. For example, if Xtra is your ISP, then you would usually use Xtra’s DNS servers to find the website you type into your browser address bar.

How long does it take for DNS propagation?

Any time that DNS changes are made you need to wait for propagation to complete. Propagation usually takes around 24 hours but is never usually more than 48. During propagation, traffic may come to either location. One person may see the new server while someone else sees the old one. Also, yourdomain.com may work while www.yourdomain.com does not. All of this is normal during propagation.

To speed things up on the internet, the Internet Server Provider (ISP) caches their DNS records. They create their own copy of the master record, and access it locally to search for website, each time someone tries to view it. This procedure speeds up internet activity, reduces the traffic and thus help the ISP work faster.

The reason it takes so long for your website to be visible to everyone once you launch it, is that each ISP has their own standard time frame to update the cache DNS record. Until their cache is reset, it will not display your launched website. There is not any kind of standard for this process, and they can set propagation time anywhere from a few hours up to 72.

Xtra is my ISP and, for me, propagation usually takes about 6 hours to complete.

The DNS information for your domain gets propagated across all servers on the web. After this propagation completes, your website will be accessible to everyone on the internet, no matter which ISP they use.

Can you speed the process up?

Unfortunately no… there is nothing that you or anyone else can do to reduce DNS propagation time. It is simply a case of waiting for this automated process to complete.


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