What Is a Nameserver (& How Does It Work?)

What Is a Nameserver? (And How Does It Work?)

What Is a Nameserver? (And How Does It Work?) blog image

The domain name system (DNS) consists of a hierarchy of Nameservers, also known as DNS servers. The purpose of the DNS system is to translate human-readable domain names into IP addresses on a global scale.

Nameservers cache or host these translations.

In this article, we’ll delve into understanding what a nameserver is, its significance, and the mechanics behind its operation.

Takeaways
  • A nameserver is a crucial component of the DNS system, translating human-readable domain names into IP addresses that machines can understand
  • Nameservers support the resolution of domain names into IP addresses, enabling browsers to access websites by their domain names instead of IP addresses
  • Examples of nameservers include Google Public DNS (8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4), Cloudflare (1.1.1.1, 1.0.0.1), and those provided by hosting services like Bluehost (ns1.bluehost.com, ns2.bluehost.com)

What Is a Nameserver for a Domain?

A nameserver is a dedicated server that plays a crucial role in the DNS hierarchy. The main goal of DNS is to translate human-friendly domain names, like “example.com”, into IP addresses, such as “192.0.2.1”. And the main function of a nameserver is to store and manage these translations, or DNS records.

Every domain name has at least one or more nameservers assigned to it, and these nameservers hold the DNS records for that domain.

When you type a website address into your browser, it queries a nameserver to obtain the IP address of the website’s server. Once the IP address is retrieved, your browser can then connect directly to the server to fetch the website’s content.

Is a Nameserver the same as a DNS server?

DNS servers are often referred to as nameservers since DNS is the most common network service. However, there are alternative services including NetBIOS Name Service (NBNS), and IEN 116.

Nameservers vs DNS Records

Nameservers are special servers that manage and store DNS records for a specific domain. They are the primary source of information for that domain. When a DNS query is made, like when you type in a website address, nameservers provide the necessary DNS records that correspond to that domain.

DNS records are specific entries within the nameserver that provide details on various aspects of the domain.

These records indicate how different types of requests for the domain should be handled. They guide the internet traffic and dictate where emails should be delivered, which server a website is hosted on, and even help verify domain ownership.

Types of DNS Records: Some common DNS records include:

  • A Records: Point a domain or subdomain to an IP address.
  • MX Records: Direct where emails sent to the domain should be delivered.
  • CNAME Records: Alias one domain name to another.
  • TXT Records: Hold text information, often used for domain verification.
  • NS Records: Specify the authoritative nameservers for the domain.

Website Hosting vs Nameservers

Web hosting refers to the service that provides the physical storage space and resources for website files, data, and content.

This space is provided on servers that host websites and make them accessible to visitors from around the world. When you type in a web address and click on a link, you’re essentially requesting to view a website’s files. The hosting server then delivers those files to your browser, allowing you to view and interact with the website.

There are various types of hosting solutions such as shared hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, and more.

Nameservers, on the other hand, contain information on how domain names should be translated into IP addresses. Every domain has its own IP address, which is a numerical label that computers use to identify each other on a network.

When you enter a domain name into the browser bar, the browser consults nameservers to find the corresponding IP address.

Domain Name vs Nameservers

A domain name, like “example.com,” is a user-friendly address for a website, making web navigation intuitive without recalling complex IP addresses. It’s essentially the website’s online identity.

Domain’s nameservers, on the other hand, are the behind-the-scenes mechanisms directing where internet queries for a domain should go.

They contain DNS records, which match domain names to their corresponding IP addresses. When you enter a domain in your browser, nameservers guide the request, ensuring you reach the correct website.

Note

In simple terms, if a domain name is a website’s name, nameservers are the directories that help you find it.

How Do DNS Nameservers Work?

Domain’s nameservers are the directories, like GPS devices that can help you navigate through a vast city to find the desired street address.

For example, when you type a website address like “example.com,” into your browser, nameservers provide the necessary information to translate the domain name into an IP address.

It can also process queries sent by the browser until the correct server’s IP address is found. Once it’s found, the nameserver responds to your browser with this address. Your browser then uses this IP address to load the website you requested.

How to Set Up Nameservers:

  • Choose a DNS Hosting Provider: Often, when you register a domain, your registrar (like GoDaddy or Namecheap) will offer DNS hosting, which includes nameservers. However, you can also opt for specialized DNS hosts for enhanced performance or security.
  • Update Domain Settings: After choosing a DNS host, they’ll provide nameserver addresses, typically looking like “host.examplehost.com.” Log into your domain registrar’s dashboard and replace the default nameserver addresses with those provided by your chosen DNS host.
  • Configure DNS Records: Within your DNS host’s dashboard, you’ll have the option to set various DNS records (like A, MX, or CNAME records). This configuration tells the nameserver how to respond to different queries about your domain, such as where your website or email is hosted.
  • Propagation: After updating settings, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to 48 hours for changes to propagate across the global network of nameservers. During this time, some users might be directed to your old site or server.

What Is the Purpose of a Nameserver?

The primary purpose of nameservers is to store and manage DNS records of translated user-friendly domain names, like “example.com”.

By doing so, they act as the internet’s directories, ensuring that when you type a website address, you’re directed to the correct server.

Setting them up is essential when configuring a new website or switching hosting providers; it ensures that your domain points to the right location.

Moreover, looking up nameservers can provide insights into where a domain is hosted or help in troubleshooting connectivity issues, ensuring a seamless online experience for users.

How to Find the Nameserver of Your Website

Finding the nameserver of your website is a straightforward process. If you’re considering changing it, it’s crucial first to identify the current one. Here’s how:

Via Your Domain Registrar:

  1.  Log in to the account where you registered your domain (e.g., GoDaddy, Namecheap).
  2. Navigate to your domain management or domain list section.
  3.  Click on the domain in question, and you should see details associated with it. The nameservers are usually listed in this section or in the DNS settings.

Online Lookup Tools:

  1. Visit a DNS lookup service like Whois.net, ICANN Lookup, or DNS Checker.
  2. Enter your domain name and perform the search.
  3.  The results typically display various details about the domain, including its nameservers.

How to Change Your Name Server for Different Domain Registrars

The process of changing your name server can vary across different hosting providers. Here’s a brief discussion of how it differs among the mentioned providers:

InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting

Image Source: InMotion Hosting

  • Login to AMP (Account Management Panel).
  • Hover over “Domains” on the main menu and click “Manage Domains”.
  • Select the domain for which you want to change the name server.
  • Click the “Point your domain” link.
  • Enter your primary and secondary name servers (two are required).
  • Click “Submit

Dreamhost

Dreamhost

Image Source: DreamHost

  •  Login and navigate to the Manage Websites page
  • Go to DNS Settings
  • Scroll to the Nameservers section and click Change
  •  Select “I’ll use my own nameservers” and enter the new nameservers. Two are required
  • Click Save and wait for the changes to propagate.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy

Image Source: GoDaddy

  • Log in to the GoDaddy Domain Portfolio
  • Select the checkboxes of the domains you’ll be updating. Alternatively, if you want to update the nameservers for all your domains select the checkbox next to the Domain Name option.
  • Select Nameservers in the action menu. If you use a smaller screen, you may need the click the More option first and scroll down to the Nameservers option
  • Choose the nameserver setting you prefer. You can choose GoDaddy Nameservers or select “I’ll use my nameservers” and enter your custom root name servers.
  • Click Save and then Continue to let the changes apply. If you use Domain Protection, you may need to verify your identity.

NameCheap

NameCheap

Image Source: Namecheap

  1. Sign into your account
  2.  In the left sidebar click “Domain List” and then the “Manage” button
  3. In the “Nameservers” section, select your preferred option from the drop-down menu and enter the first nameserver and second nameserver. That means that you’d use a custom nameserver from some other source.
  4. Click on the green checkmark to save the changes.

Best Tools for Name Server Lookup

Google Public DNS

  • Key Features: Google Public DNS provides a DNS resolution service, and while it’s not a name server lookup tool in the traditional sense, it can help resolve DNS queries and troubleshoot DNS issues.
  • Pros: Reliable, secure, and fast. Provides detailed documentation for troubleshooting.
  • Cons: May not provide as much detailed information on DNS records compared to dedicated lookup tools.

Learn more: Google Public DNS

 DNSChecker

  • Key Features: Provides DNS lookup service along with propagation checking to see how DNS changes are propagating across different regions.
  • Pros: User-friendly interface, comprehensive data on DNS propagation, supports various DNS record types.
  • Cons: The interface may be overwhelming for new users.

Learn more: DNSChecker

MX Toolbox

  • Key Features: Offers DNS Lookup, MX Lookup, and a suite of other tools to analyze domain DNS records.
  • Pros: Wide array of tools, user-friendly interface, provides detailed information on DNS records.
  • Cons: Some advanced features require a subscription.

Learn more: MX Toolbox

IntoDNS

  • Key Features: Provides a detailed report on the health and configuration of DNS and mail server settings for a domain.
  • Pros: Offers insights into potential misconfigurations, easy to use.
  • Cons: The interface is quite basic and might not appeal to all users.

Learn more: IntoDNS

Nameserver Examples

Nameserver is a crucial element of the DNS (Domain Name System) that translates domain names into the correct IP address. Here are some examples of name servers:

  1. Public Name Servers (Google Public DNS, Cloudflare…)
  2. ISP-Provided Name Servers: Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide their own name servers to customers. The exact addresses would be specific to each ISP.
  3. Hosting Provider Name Servers: Popular hosting providers also run their own name servers like Bluehost, HostGator, and others. You can modify them on your hosting account.
  4.  Domain Registrar Name Servers: Domain registrars also provide name servers like GoDaddy and NameCheap.

Final Word: Understanding Domain Nameservers

Understanding Domain Name Servers (DNS) is crucial as they act as the internet’s phone book, translating human-readable domain names into IP addresses.

By mastering DNS, you enhance web accessibility, performance, and ultimately, the user experience.

If you’re starting your business and want to take it online, check out our selection of the best website builders and choose the best web hosting for your needs.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About DNS

Frequently Asked Questions

What port on a name server is used for user datagram protocol (UDP) name request packets?

Port 53 is used on a name server for User Datagram Protocol (UDP) name request packets.

What is the process of a DNS server asking other DNS servers to perform name resolution known as?

This process is known as DNS recursion, where a DNS server queries other DNS servers to resolve a domain name.

What is a “forward lookup” on a domain name server?

A “forward lookup” refers to the process of translating a domain name into an IP address.

What is the term for a server at the highest level of the domain name system (DNS)?

A server at the highest level of the DNS is referred to as a Root Name Server.

Sonja Vitas
Edited By:
Sonja Vitas
Content Editor

HostAdvice Speaks to ScalaHosting: An Interview with Chris Rusev

HostAdvice had the opportunity to speak with Chris Rusev, the CEO and co-founder of , a web hosting company that offers shared, cloud VPS, and res...
8 min read
Eddie Segal
Eddie Segal
Digital Marketing Specialist

Email Deliverability: What Is It, Key Factors & Best Practices

What is Email Deliverability? Think of it like mailing a letter and making sure it lands right in the recipient's hands, not lost or thrown...
17 min read
Ela Gal-Kfir
Ela Gal-Kfir
Digital Marketing Specialist

Email Marketing vs. Social Media: Which is More Effective?

What is Email Marketing? Email marketing is a  that involves companies reaching out to potential and existing customers via email ...
10 min read
Ela Gal-Kfir
Ela Gal-Kfir
Digital Marketing Specialist

Email Engagement Metrics, Calculation & Best Practices

Email engagement tells us how interested recipients are in the content of emails they receive. It provides insights into what types of em...
12 min read
Ela Gal-Kfir
Ela Gal-Kfir
Digital Marketing Specialist
HostAdvice.com provides professional web hosting reviews fully independent of any other entity. Our reviews are unbiased, honest, and apply the same evaluation standards to all those reviewed. While monetary compensation is received from a few of the companies listed on this site, compensation of services and products have no influence on the direction or conclusions of our reviews. Nor does the compensation influence our rankings for certain host companies. This compensation covers account purchasing costs, testing costs and royalties paid to reviewers.
Click to go to the top of the page
Go To Top