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How to Deploy a DNS Server for Windows Server 2016: Processes & Configurations

Instructor: Andrew Leveridge

Andrew has worked as an IT contractor in the field for over 6 years and has a Masters degree in Information Security and Assurance.

This lesson examines the process of setting up DNS services in Windows Server 2016, including creating new DNS zones and resource records, as well as explaining DNS server configuration and managing root hints.

Deploying DNS Services on Windows Server 2016

In this lesson, we will learn about installing, configuring, operating, and managing a name server on the Windows Server platform.

Name servers, also called Domain Name Services (DNS) servers, provide the basis of converting human-readable website addresses to the Internet Protocol addresses that computers use to communicate. However, name servers can also provide address resolution for private namespaces and domains, for instance at businesses or universities, turning private websites into private addresses, allowing users to easily connect to the service even if the address changes.

Installing a new name server in your network can provide benefits such as an increase in speed and stability, if your Internet service provider name servers are slow to respond or unreliable. Slow or frequently-down name servers can lead to inability to load websites or even loss of Internet connection, so setting up your own network DNS service can route around those issues.

Let's move on to the process of installing a DNS server on Windows Server 2016.

Installing DNS Services in Windows Server 2016

In Windows Server, the DNS programs and features are bundled together in a role to aid service installation and configuration. By selecting to install the DNS role, the server configuration program Server Manager will automatically pull in all the required software dependencies and management tools. After completing that process, you can immediately begin making use of the name server in clients on your network.

You can install your own DNS server by following these steps:

  1. Authenticate as the server administrator on the target machine. You cannot install the DNS role without proper administrative credentials.
  2. Run the PowerShell program with full admin permissions from the Task Bar or the Start Menu. You must right click on the program shortcut and select the Run as Admin option to get the command-line tool working properly.
  3. Run the following PowerShell cmdlet to install the DNS role on Windows Server:
    • Install-WindowsFeature DNS -IncludeManagementTools

After the PowerShell cmdlet sets up the DNS role, it will also install the management tools so you can configure the new service to your liking.

Windows Server DNS servers have many more features, like managing DNS zones for one. DNS zones, like forward lookup zones and reverse lookup zones, are the backbone of the Internet as they provide a central place to configure useful information that all clients can make use of.

Let's setup a new zone on our new name server.

Creating DNS Zones

Zones are a collection of service names and IP addresses, and other details, which clients can request and download name resolution information from.

There are different types of zones for different purposes: Primary, Secondary, and Stubs.

Primary zones are authoritative for and responsible for managing all DNS configuration details. Secondary zones are zones that synchronize information from primary zones. The final type of zone is the stub zone, which provides a pointer to clients so that they contact another server for more information. Stub zones can be useful in places where a full DNS zone would not work well.

This lesson will walk through the creation of a primary zone, though the process is virtually identical for all types. You can create a new DNS zone by following these steps:

  1. Authenticate as the server administrator, then open the Server Manager program from the Start Menu.
  2. Click on the Tools menu, then select DNS to open the DNS service management utility.
  3. Right-click on the target DNS server in which you want to create the new zone and select Create New Zone, then click Next to continue.
  4. Choose Primary zone to setup an authoritative DNS zone.
  5. Select Forward Lookup Zone if you want to translate host names to IP addresses, or select Reverse Lookup Zone if you want to translate IP addresses to host names. Click Next to continue.
  6. Provide the zone name, for example your website address, and click Next. The zone name will be used in name resolution to complete fully-qualified host names like pc25.example.com, where example.com is the zone name.
  7. Choose 'Create a new file with this name' and click Next to continue. This will store the zone under its name to distinguish from any similar zone configurations.
  8. Choose 'Do not allow dynamic updates' to disallow clients from automatically updating the zone when their client IP changes. Otherwise, click another option to enable dynamic updates.
  9. Click Finish to complete the new zone creation process.

You can now manage resource records for the zone as needed. Let's move on to configuring the zone so clients will know what host names and IP addresses this zone is authoritative for.

Managing DNS Zones

Right now the zone is empty, except for Start of Authority (SOA) and Name Server (NS) records defining which server is in control. By creating resource records, also known as A records (for IPv4) and AAAA records (for IPv6), clients will be able to look up those host names here.

Empty DNS Primary Zone with SOA and NS records.
Empty DNS Primary Zone with SOA and NS records.

For instance, you could create resource records for each server on your network or for all your client computers, or both depending on network requirements. This will allow you to more easily remember them by name rather than by address.

You can make new resource records by following these steps:

  1. Open up the DNS service management utility if you do not already have it open following the previous instructions.
  2. Select the zone you created (under forward lookup zones) to move inside it, allowing you to manage and control its configuration as needed.
  3. Right click anywhere inside the window showing the zone and select the option for 'New Host (A or AAAA)'. A records translate host names to IPv4 addresses, while AAAA records translate host names to IPv6 addresses.
  4. Enter the record details, such as what host name this record is for and what address it points to. To automatically create a corresponding reverse (PTR) record for this host name, keep 'Create associated pointer record' selected.
  5. Click Add Host to add the new resource record to this primary zone.

Adding pc01 record to the example.net zone for the IPv4 address 10.0.0.1
Adding new resource record to zone. Text shown is configuring the ~

You can now create other records as needed for your network. We'll move on to explaining the additional features of the Windows Server 2016 DNS service, like forwarders and root hints.

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