The Domain Name System (DNS) relies on using either an A or AAAA record to link servers and domains together. These domains will work with different types of IP addresses.
In this post, we’ll explain what these records are, how they interact with the DNS, and how to configure an AAAA record for your website.
Let’s get started!
A brief overview of the Domain Name System
In a nutshell, the DNS serves as the internet’s address book. It translates human-readable domain names (such as domainwheel.com) into the numerical IP addresses (like
192.0.2.1) that computers and networks use to connect to each other.
IP addresses are like phone numbers for internet devices. They help computers find and communicate with each other online. However, much like phone numbers, there are different formats (more on those in a minute).
The DNS encompasses a network of servers to help manage the translation process. In short, your browser will send a query to a local DNS resolver. This server communicates with a network of other DNS servers responsible for different segments of the domain namespace to find the right IP address. On the front end, the result is delivery of a web page within the browser.
Without the DNS, you’d need to remember strings of numbers to reach the right website. This isn’t user-friendly, and it’s impractical to remember all of the IP addresses we’d need. This is why the DNS is a crucial facilitator.
Understanding AAAA records
You may already have a familiarity with “A” records when you set up your site. These “signposts” connect a website’s name to its numeric address. It’s what the DNS uses to find the right place to go on the internet.
However, as there are different types of phone number formats (1-800 vs. cell phone numbers is just one example comparison), there are also different IP address formats.
On a technical level, A records connect domain names to IPv4 addresses. The format for these is typically four sets of digits using periods as separators – “dot-decimal notation” – like the example we shared earlier (
192.0.2.1 if you’ve forgotten).
AAAA records are a modern counterpart to A records. Rather than handling IPv4 addresses, they route to IPv6 addresses. IPv6 addresses work in the same way as IPv4 addresses, but are longer, and contain both letters and numbers.
Here’s an example of an IPv6 address:
You’ll often see two versions of an IPv6 address – the full one, and the “collapsed” one. They do the same thing, but the latter truncates some of the zeros and colons that are displayed in the full version.
Why IPv6 adoption is crucial for the web’s future
The adoption of IPv6 stands as a pivotal step to help face the unparalleled demand for online connectivity. Given that IPv4 addresses are short and will only use numbers, there are only so many available.
In fact, there have only ever been 4.3 billion available IPv4 addresses. However, as recently as 2020, there are nearly 5 billion devices using an internet connection along with 1.11 billion websites  . Clearly, demand has outpaced supply.
IPv6 presents a compelling solution to this. The key lies in its vast address space: there are a staggering 340 undecillion (3.4 × 10^38) potential addresses available. For us mere mortals, this is essentially unlimited.
Security is another pivotal facet that drives IPv6 adoption. Inherent in its design is functionality such as IPsec, which provides a native framework for encrypted communications and enhances data integrity. Also, IPv6 can help to simplify network management through auto-configuration. This could streamline the setup process for devices and networks.
How IP addresses link to AAAA records
While you may understand that Quad A records hold IP addresses and pass them to the DNS, it’s important to understand how they do this.
When you browse to a domain name, you evoke “DNS resolution”. Part of this process for Quad A records is to ensure that the local device can communicate with IPv6-enabled destinations. Either way, a DNS resolver server will query other authoritative DNS servers for the requested domain.
If the query is for an IPv6 connection, the resolver seeks out the domain’s AAAA record. Once it finds one, it can grab the corresponding 128-bit IPv6 address of the destination. From there, it will return it through the system of DNS servers, back to the browser, and deliver the web page.
How to configure an AAAA record
If your website uses an IPv6 domain, you’ll need an AAAA record to link the IPv6 address to the URL domain and ensure that users can find your website. Luckily, creating, configuring, and managing Quad A records is a piece of cake.
For this tutorial, we’ll use Bluehost as it offers the option to create a dedicated AAAA record. However, we’ll also mention other hosts too, in order to show you that this is possible regardless of your setup.
1. Navigate to your host’s DNS records 🧭
Once you head to the right page in Bluehost, you need to find your DNS settings. For our example, this is under My Domains > Manage > DNS:
This page includes a few different options. Bluehost separates the records into sections, so you simply need to scroll to the portion you need. However, other hosts will present this in different ways. For instance, DigitalOcean gives you tabs that list each record:
You may even see a combined list of records complete with a drop-down menu to select the type you want to add. Here’s an example of what this looks like on Namecheap:
Regardless, you’ll need to select the option to add a new record, at which point, you’ll spot some extra fields.
2. Configure your AAAA record ⚙️
Whenever you need to create a new A or AAAA record, you have three fields to complete:
- A hostname
- Where the record should direct to
- A Time-To-Live (TTL) value
We’ll talk more about the TTL later, but the first two fields are straightforward. The hostname is the domain of your site – domainwheel.com for us. Sometimes you can use the @ symbol rather than the domain – @domainwheel, in our case. This is shorthand for your domain name, which keeps things simple.
Here’s an example of what this looks like on Bluehost:
You may see a number of different labels for the field that lets you direct the record. For instance, Bluehost uses Points To, while DigitalOcean and Namecheap use Value. You will likely see something specific for your host or registrar too.
Either way, this is where you enter the IP address of your server. In many cases, you’ll know what this is, either through a dashboard widget or an email from your host with the information. Of course, for an A record this will be the IPv4 address. For an AAAA record, it will be the IPv6 version:
Finally, the TTL value for your records indicate the lifespan of the data packets that the server sends. You’ll typically find this at the bottom of the AAAA record management panel.
As such, you want to make sure you set the right TTL time. You’ll see values that range from 1,800–14,400. While shorter TTLs can facilitate quicker changes, longer TTLs reduce the load on DNS servers. In most cases, you can trust your web host to have a default TTL that works well for your website.
A balance is key here, especially if you configure multiple subdomains. Our advice is to use the same TTL for all of your A and Quad A records. This uniform approach will help to keep things manageable.
Waiting for propagation
At this point, you can save your changes. However, you may still have to wait for those changes to “propagate”. This takes around 72 hours to complete, although you could see this happen sooner. Regardless, there’s no more for you to do here other than wait!
Quick tips on configuring your AAAA record
Configuring a Quad A record works in a similar way to a typical A record. However, there are still some aspects to remember about the process in general.
First, because IPv6 addresses are longer and more complex than their IPv4 counterparts, you want to ensure you enter it correctly. This may seem like a no-brainer, but given that you’re using a mixture of colons, numbers, and letters in a longer format, you don’t want to get this wrong.
Another thing to consider is that your site’s server may not support IPv6 addresses yet. This is something you should ask your hosting provider about. In our experience, few offer them right now, but the infrastructure is there to implement it.
It’s also important to note that you may see connectivity issues if you try to configure a Quad A record without a corresponding IPv6 destination. This is because you need end-to-end connectivity for IPv6 addresses. As such, IPv4 addresses can’t connect to IPv6 and vice-versa.
If you have the option, a “dual-stack” setup could be worthwhile. Here, you’ll have both types of IP address for your site, so you can configure an A record and a Quad A record. If/when hosts decide to switch over to IPv6 servers, this will likely be the default solution for a while.
Depending on whether you use an IPv4 or IPv6 address for your server, you’ll need to direct it to your domain using the right type of record. An A record works with IPv4 addresses, and an AAAA record is for IPv6 addresses. However, the process is exactly the same for each record. This means you can add these, configure them, and manage them alongside your other DNS records without fuss.
👉 From here, you can look to optimize your DNS setup further by reading our article on DNS load balancing.