Chapter 3. Name Server Configuration

Table of Contents
3.1. Sample Configurations
3.2. Load Balancing
3.3. Name Server Operations

In this section we provide some suggested configurations along with guidelines for their use. We also address the topic of reasonable option setting.

3.1. Sample Configurations

3.1.1. A Caching-only Name Server

The following sample configuration is appropriate for a caching-only name server for use by clients internal to a corporation. All queries from outside clients are refused using the allow-query option. Alternatively, the same effect could be achieved using suitable firewall rules.

// Two corporate subnets we wish to allow queries from.
acl corpnets {;; };
options {
     directory "/etc/namedb";           // Working directory
     allow-query { corpnets; };
// Provide a reverse mapping for the loopback address
zone "" {
     type master;
     file "localhost.rev";
     notify no;

3.1.2. An Authoritative-only Name Server

This sample configuration is for an authoritative-only server that is the master server for "" and a slave for the subdomain "".

options {
     directory "/etc/namedb";           // Working directory
     allow-query { any; };              // This is the default
     recursion no;                      // Do not provide recursive service

// Provide a reverse mapping for the loopback address
zone "" {
     type master;
     file "localhost.rev";
     notify no;
// We are the master server for
zone "" {
     type master;
     file "";
     // IP addresses of slave servers allowed to transfer
     allow-transfer {
// We are a slave server for
zone "" {
     type slave;
     file "";
     // IP address of master server
     masters {; };

3.2. Load Balancing

A primitive form of load balancing can be achieved in the DNS by using multiple A records for one name.

For example, if you have three WWW servers with network addresses of, and, a set of records such as the following means that clients will connect to each machine one third of the time:





Resource Record (RR) Data











When a resolver queries for these records, BIND will rotate them and respond to the query with the records in a different order. In the example above, clients will randomly receive records in the order 1, 2, 3; 2, 3, 1; and 3, 1, 2. Most clients will use the first record returned and discard the rest.

For more detail on ordering responses, check the rrset-order substatement in the options statement, see RRset Ordering. This substatement is not supported in BIND 9, and only the ordering scheme described above is available.

3.3. Name Server Operations

3.3.1. Tools for Use With the Name Server Daemon

There are several indispensable diagnostic, administrative and monitoring tools available to the system administrator for controlling and debugging the name server daemon. We describe several in this section Diagnostic Tools

The dig, host, and nslookup programs are all command line tools for manually querying name servers. They differ in style and output format.


The domain information groper (dig) is the most versatile and complete of these lookup tools. It has two modes: simple interactive mode for a single query, and batch mode which executes a query for each in a list of several query lines. All query options are accessible from the command line.

dig [@server] domain [query-type] [query-class] [+query-option] [-dig-option] [%comment]

The usual simple use of dig will take the form

dig @server domain query-type query-class

For more information and a list of available commands and options, see the dig man page.


The host utility emphasizes simplicity and ease of use. By default, it converts between host names and Internet addresses, but its functionality can be extended with the use of options.

host [-aCdlrTwv] [-c class] [-N ndots] [-t type] [-W timeout] [-R retries] hostname [server]

For more information and a list of available commands and options, see the host man page.


nslookup has two modes: interactive and non-interactive. Interactive mode allows the user to query name servers for information about various hosts and domains or to print a list of hosts in a domain. Non-interactive mode is used to print just the name and requested information for a host or domain.

nslookup [-option...] [host-to-find | - [server]]

Interactive mode is entered when no arguments are given (the default name server will be used) or when the first argument is a hyphen (`-') and the second argument is the host name or Internet address of a name server.

Non-interactive mode is used when the name or Internet address of the host to be looked up is given as the first argument. The optional second argument specifies the host name or address of a name server.

Due to its arcane user interface and frequently inconsistent behavior, we do not recommend the use of nslookup. Use dig instead. Administrative Tools

Administrative tools play an integral part in the management of a server.


The named-checkconf program checks the syntax of a named.conf file.

named-checkconf [-t directory] [filename]


The named-checkzone program checks a master file for syntax and consistency.

named-checkzone [-dq] [-c class] zone [filename]


The remote name daemon control (rndc) program allows the system administrator to control the operation of a name server. If you run rndc without any options it will display a usage message as follows:

rndc [-c config] [-s server] [-p port] [-y key] command [command...]

command is one of the following:


Reload configuration file and zones.

reload zone [class [view]]

Reload the given zone.

refresh zone [class [view]]

Schedule zone maintenance for the given zone.

retransfer zone [class [view]]

Retransfer the given zone from the master.

freeze zone [class [view]]

Suspend updates to a dynamic zone. This allows manual edits to be made to a zone normally updated by dynamic update. It also causes changes in the journal file to be synced into the master and the journal file to be removed. All dynamic update attempts will be refused while the zone is frozen.

unfreeze zone [class [view]]

Enable updates to a frozen dynamic zone. This causes the server to reload the zone from disk, and re-enables dynamic updates after the load has completed. After a zone is unfrozen, dynamic updates will no longer be refused.


Reload the configuration file and load new zones, but do not reload existing zone files even if they have changed. This is faster than a full reload when there is a large number of zones because it avoids the need to examine the modification times of the zones files.


Write server statistics to the statistics file.


Toggle query logging. Query logging can also be enabled by explictly directing the queries category to a channel in the logging section of named.conf.


Dump the server's caches to the dump file.


Stop the server, making sure any recent changes made through dynamic update or IXFR are first saved to the master files of the updated zones.


Stop the server immediately. Recent changes made through dynamic update or IXFR are not saved to the master files, but will be rolled forward from the journal files when the server is restarted.


Increment the servers debugging level by one.

trace level

Sets the server's debugging level to an explicit value.


Sets the server's debugging level to 0.


Flushes the server's cache.


Display status of the server.

In BIND 9.2, rndc supports all the commands of the BIND 8 ndc utility except ndc start and ndc restart, which were also not supported in ndc's channel mode.

A configuration file is required, since all communication with the server is authenticated with digital signatures that rely on a shared secret, and there is no way to provide that secret other than with a configuration file. The default location for the rndc configuration file is /etc/rndc.conf, but an alternate location can be specified with the -c option. If the configuration file is not found, rndc will also look in /etc/rndc.key (or whatever sysconfdir was defined when the BIND build was configured). The rndc.key file is generated by running rndc-confgen -a as described in Section 6.2.4.

The format of the configuration file is similar to that of named.conf, but limited to only four statements, the options, key, server and include statements. These statements are what associate the secret keys to the servers with which they are meant to be shared. The order of statements is not significant.

The options statement has three clauses: default-server, default-key, and default-port. default-server takes a host name or address argument and represents the server that will be contacted if no -s option is provided on the command line. default-key takes the name of a key as its argument, as defined by a key statement. default-port specifies the port to which rndc should connect if no port is given on the command line or in a server statement.

The key statement defines an key to be used by rndc when authenticating with named. Its syntax is identical to the key statement in named.conf. The keyword key is followed by a key name, which must be a valid domain name, though it need not actually be hierarchical; thus, a string like "rndc_key" is a valid name. The key statement has two clauses: algorithm and secret. While the configuration parser will accept any string as the argument to algorithm, currently only the string "hmac-md5" has any meaning. The secret is a base-64 encoded string.

The server statement associates a key defined using the key statement with a server. The keyword server is followed by a host name or address. The server statement has two clauses: key and port. The key clause specifies the name of the key to be used when communicating with this server, and the port clause can be used to specify the port rndc should connect to on the server.

A sample minimal configuration file is as follows:

key rndc_key {
     algorithm "hmac-md5";
     secret "c3Ryb25nIGVub3VnaCBmb3IgYSBtYW4gYnV0IG1hZGUgZm9yIGEgd29tYW4K";
options {
     default-key    rndc_key;

This file, if installed as /etc/rndc.conf, would allow the command:

$ rndc reload

to connect to port 953 and cause the name server to reload, if a name server on the local machine were running with following controls statements:

controls {
        inet allow { localhost; } keys { rndc_key; };

and it had an identical key statement for rndc_key.

Running the rndc-confgen program will conveniently create a rndc.conf file for you, and also display the corresponding controls statement that you need to add to named.conf. Alternatively, you can run rndc-confgen -a to set up a rndc.key file and not modify named.conf at all.

3.3.2. Signals

Certain UNIX signals cause the name server to take specific actions, as described in the following table. These signals can be sent using the kill command.


Causes the server to read named.conf and reload the database.


Causes the server to clean up and exit.


Causes the server to clean up and exit.