Active Directory: Best Practices for Internal Domain and Network Names


When planning for a new Active Directory (AD) or upgrade AD, or merging AD one of the topics that will get on the table is planning DNS. DNS is the Domain Naming system, used to translate names into network (IP) addresses. Certainly this is the case if you need to plan for integration with an extranet, DMZ (demilitarized zone, typically between intranet and internet), or publishing website and applications

As it’s not a daily job to setup a new AD domain and internal DNS (from scratch…), so it might help to have some references to best practices.

Apparently it’s a pretty frequent topic on AD and network platforms. Plus, there are some strict technical guidelines that apply here, even for internal DNS configurations.

So the question is: what’s the best practice for DNS naming for internal domains and networks?

The short answer, as best practice:

  • Microsoft strongly recommends that you register a public domain and use subdomains for the internal DNS.
  • So, register a public DNS name, so you own it. Then create subdomains for internal use (like,, and make sure you’ve got your DNS configuration setup correctly.

Below more detailed explanation. Luckily enough there is some nice reading material out there to prove the statement, so make sure you bookmark this page 😉



But first we need to clarify a few things…


AD Domain vs DNS name

The AD domain name is NOT the same as the DNS name, but they are linked. AD Domain names are mainly used within AD operations, mostly LDAP queries for AD functionality, while DNS is rather a network level solution for name resolution on IP level (to resolve the machines or application names to IP addresses). Essentially this difference allows you to use a ‘internal’, private AD domain name and use a public, registered DNS.

If you look into discussions and documentation on this topic, you’ll also see that the AD domain short name is referred as the NetBIOS Name (as in the AD logon name <DOMAIN><username>).

For example

  • AD Domain name: CORP
  • DNS name:

See here for more explanation:  You can also ‘unlink’ the AD domain name from the DNS name, then you get a disjoint namespace, as explained in previous link.

For Example

  • AD Domain name: CORP
  • DNS name:

Check this forum discussion:

And also: 


Dummy DNS name vs official DNS name

In the past, lots of people chose to use a dummy, unofficial TLD (top-level-domain) for their internal network, like domain.lan, domain.local of domain.internal (and also domain.internalhost)

But this can get you in serious trouble. Because these names are not supported by internet standards, the most important RFC on this is: RFC 2606  (  ) This RFC standard is very explicit on choosing domain names for private testing and documentation

  • .test
  • .example
  • .invalid
  • .localhost

But also for documentation some 2nd level domains are reserved


As you can see, these names are created for testing and not for production.

Plus, if the public naming standards change or additional names are released you might be using a name you don’t own and that can be routed to the internet, which conflicts with the initial use. Therefore, the technical conclusion is fairly straight forward: register a public DNS name and use it for your internal DNS resolution. So the use of <yourinternaldomain>.be is technically correct but it doesn’t stop there. There are some important consequences. Allow me to take the discussion a step further. You have to make a choice on the DNS zones:

  • using a single DNS zone
  • Using subdomains
  • using different DNS zones


Using a single namespace (for internal and external hosts)

Some customers use the same DNS zone for internal and external usage. But there are some important disadvantages:

  • mismatch between security zones (like intranet, extranet, DMZ and) and DNS naming
  • when adding / merging domains the DNS is subject to redesign
  • less flexible, less automated DNS operations
  • conflict in authority with internal DNS and external DNS (managed by internet provider)

You might face some practical issues like:

  • conflicts in DNS,
  • instable operations and sub-optimal performance
  • network issues
  • complex configuration
  • less or no automated DNS operations, more manual operations
  • keeping DNS under control is less obvious

Plus, you’ll face some consequences regarding network security, by the lack of segregation of (DNS) duties.

So: Single DNS domain is absolutely not advised when you need to manage internal and external resources.


Using different DNS names and zones

It’s completely the opposite of the previous approach. From DNS level, this is fairly simple setup, but you need to duplicate or multiply DNS configurations. And from a user perspective it might be complex or confusing, or not transparent, and inconsistent


DNS sub-domains of master

This is a frequently used technique to use the same TLD (top level domain) and separate the zones by subdomain. E.g. “intranet”, “extranet”, “DMZ” for ‘internal’ zones and just plain <domain>.<tld> for public DNS. For example:

  • or (if your AD is named ‘CORP’)
  • for applications or partner facing websites
  • for applications that need DMZ for data protection or publication,
  • and master suffix for public websites (managed by your Internet Provider)

The forum post just mentioned earlier discusses a technique called “DNS split brain”:

In fact, you have one DNS name space, but with forwarding spaces per zone. This is a bit more complicated setup as you need to make sure the DNS servers forward the requests to the applicable zones correctly. And it does require some planning and cooperation with your internet provider.



Microsoft strongly suggests to work with subdomains, within a publicly registered TLD domain. Check: Creating Internal and External Domains op 

Design Option Management Complexity Example
The internal domain is a subdomain of the external domain. Microsoft strongly recommends this option. For more information, see Using an Internal Subdomain  . Easy to deploy and administer. An organization with an external namespace uses the internal namespace
The internal and external domain names are different from each other. For more information, see Using Different Internal and External Domain Names  . More complicated than previous option. An organization uses for its external namespace, and corp.internal for its internal namespace.


On top of that you need to be aware of a few rules regarding naming standards: 

Only use allowable ASCII characters when creating subdomains, A, CNAME and etc that conform to IETF standard. For more detail information, please refer to IETF RFC1035 Section 2.3 (Conventions)  and other RFC Memo in the References section in this article.


To conclude, please find some useful reference info in one spot below:


Taken from:

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