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What is a Nameserver?

by: Hostwinds Team  /  March 7, 2020


Although libraries were still relevant in 2020, they have been lost to antiquity to some degree due to the emergence of the internet. Time sure does fly. It seems like just yesterday that libraries were an inherent component of the scholar's life.

Don't you remember those days before the birth of the internet when traveling to a library was a requirement to research a particular topic? Additionally, back in the day, one had to be familiar with the Dewey Decimal System to navigate the library effectively.

The Dewey Decimal System has since been replaced with another numerical system known as DNS (Domain Name System). DNS, and nameservers for that matter, have not only replaced Dewey's system but improved it.

Why, you ask? Thanks to DNS, we don't have to remember an IP address (that would serve as one of the numbers in the Dewey Decimal System for all intents and purposes) to find a particular website online. Nameservers and DNS relieve us from looking up and memorizing a domain name's IP address to access the former.

The nearly instantaneous process by which DNS links a particular website to its respective IP address is nothing short of a miracle. Within this blog post, we will explore the intricate Domain Name System and the significant role played by the nameservers, as mentioned earlier.

What Are Nameservers?

In the simplest of terms, a nameserver is a server. More specifically, nameservers are servers intertwined with the Word Wide Web that store DNS records. Every single domain name is linked to nameservers. Often nameservers are thought of as phone books containing the numbers (AKA IP addresses) associated with domain names. Otherwise known as DNS servers, nameservers respond to queries from computers pertaining to the domain locations.

An Alternate Nameserver Definition From a Previous Hostwinds Blog Post: "An intrinsic component to DNS is a nameserver, which stores these files and sort of acts as the DNS encyclopedia genius. Zone files contain the domain and endow nameservers with the capacity to figure out how to interpret what a user types into the search bar."

Nameservers host zone files the same way that servers host websites and zone files store the DNS records.

More Info About Nameservers: "Nameservers concisely communicate with other nameservers and implement various methods of sifting and sorting to route users to their desired destinations in seconds."

READ ON: DNS & DNS Management Blog Post

Generally, your domain will be assigned two nameservers, one acting as a backup nameserver if something happens with the primary nameserver. Your backup or secondary nameserver is a replica of your primary nameserver.

Example of Nameservers:

mdns7.hostwindsdns.com

mdns8.hostwindsdns.com

How are Nameservers Relevant to Hosting?

Nameservers connect your domain to your hosting provider. They let the internet know that a specific provider hosts a particular website.

As you may have already presumed, it's a lot more complicated than just that. First off, are you familiar with Domain Name System (DNS)?

What is DNS?

Hold on a second. We've covered this before. The following DNS definition was extracted from the DNS & DNS management blog post we referenced above:

"DNS is a vast, virtual database full of web domains and the critical information associated with each domain. Such information is contained within files known as zone files."

What are DNS Records?

DNS records define the pathway internet traffic goes down to find the specific domain name associated with a particular IP address.

More Info About DNS Records from Our DNS Blog Post: "DNS records such as the 'A' (Address) record, the 'CNAME' (Canonical Name) record, and the 'TTL' (Time to Live) record, to name a few, are also integral pieces of this DNS puzzle, as they explicitly command the server to take the user to their requested URL. The A record maps the domain straight to the server's IP address that provides the home for that domain's website. The CNAME record leads domain aliases (such as www.google.com's alias, google.com) to the proper IP address. The TTL record documents and stores the amount of time the DNS query takes to process."

While we're on the topic of records, the NS record, or 'Name Server' record, is what points a domain to its respective nameservers. To connect your domain name to your domain name registrar, you would ask the registrar for their nameservers and update your NS record accordingly.

Let's Break This Whole Nameserver Situation Down With a For Instance:

Say, for instance. You have just heard about Hostwinds' fantastic variety of hosting services and immediately go on a frantic internet search to find us ?! >> Google.com helps you find Hostwinds' website, www.Hostwinds.com. >> When you click on the link directing you to www.Hostwinds.com, the browser locates and talks to nameservers via DNS. Which nameservers, you ask? The nameservers are connected to www.Hostwinds.com. >> The nameservers speak to the browser, telling it what IP address resolves to the domain www.Hostwinds.com via the A record. >> That IP address is where the data amounting to the website www.Hostwinds.com can be found. That data is transferred from the IP address to the browser. >> By some technological miracle, that data is grabbed by the browser and displayed to the person viewing your site.

How Can I Access Hostwinds' Nameservers?

You can check out your domain's nameservers in your Client Area. The link below will direct you to a Hostwinds Knowledge Base guide containing a step-by-step tutorial about how to view your nameservers for Shared, Business, VPS, or Dedicated Hosting.

RELATED: Which Nameservers Should I Use For My Domain? Guide

More About Nameservers

Did you know there are different kinds of nameservers and even different tiers of nameservers?

What are Custom Nameservers?

Custom nameservers are nameservers that are configured and managed by the website owner. This can be helpful if, for example, you have a Reseller Hosting plan because the hosting services you sell can't be traced back to your hosting provider.

What Are Vanity Nameservers?

Vanity nameservers are very similar to custom nameservers. They both entail you having nameservers that aren't given to you by your host by default. The only difference between the two is that vanity nameservers have the hosting provider's IP addresses. In contrast, custom nameservers have their unique IP addresses.

What are Authoritative Nameservers?

Authoritative nameservers are higher-tiered nameservers that respond to queries solely pertaining to the names of domains.

From Our "How Do I Find My Nameservers" Guide: "The Authoritative Nameserver for your domain is where your DNS Zone file is stored."

READ ON: How Do I Find My Nameservers? Guide

What is a Caching Nameserver?

As its name suggests, a caching nameserver is a nameserver responsible for caching outdated DNS queries stored for a certain amount of time. Caching nameservers are vital because they ensure DNS isn't overloaded with traffic and information, ensuring it process requests faster overall.

It's time to wrap this blog piece up, folks, but first, some words from our team.

In Closing, Some Nameserver Advice From The Hostwinds Team

Here's What Happens When You Change Your Nameservers: It takes a little bit of time for your domain name to point at your new nameservers. On that note, Hostwinds Support Team Agent, Gregory, has some valuable information to share about changing nameservers:

"When you change your nameservers, generally, you will see changes for one of the DNS resolvers such as those on WhatsMyDNS.net within an hour. However, you may not see full propagation of your nameservers to all of these DNS resolvers for 24 hours."

RELATED: What is DNS Propagation? Guide

Speaking of 'Support Team,' our knowledgeable Support Team Representative, Kyle, has some advice for Hostwinds clients:

"If for some reason you don't see your site pulling up, first check to see if your nameservers are set. Eighty percent of the cases when clients say, 'Hey, my website isn't propagated,' it is usually the nameservers aren't set, or they are misspelled, particularly for Shared and Business Hosting."

RELATED: DNS Servers, Roles, & Functions

RELATED: Custom Nameservers Guide

We hope you enjoyed this nameserver-themed blog post, and we hope you have a great day!

Written by Hostwinds Team  /  March 7, 2020

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