What Is a Nameserver? And why Are Nameservers Important?11-10-2023 - Blogs
Why Are Nameservers Important?
If you have some kind of online pressence, you might have come across the term nameserver. But what exactly is a nameserver?
Nameservers play a crucial role in connecting domainnames and the IP address of web servers. They are an integral part of the Domain Name System (DNS), often referred to as the “phone book of the Internet.”
We will try to delve deeper into the concept of nameservers, understanding their functionality, and exploring how you can utilize them to effectively manage your site’s domain name as well as other aspects of your website.
What Is a Nameserver?
When a user types a URL like “https://thedomainrobot.com” into their browser, there is a need to establish a connection between that browser and the web server that hosts the website corresponding with the URL. So since the web servers of the internet, does not use domain names to identify them – but uses IP addresses – imagine the inconvenience if you had to input the actual IP address of a web server every time you wanted to visit a website. Remembering whether it was 18.104.22.168 or 542.346.341.85 would be a nightmare!
This is where nameservers come into play. Nameservers serve the purpose of associating a URL with the IP address of the server in a more user-friendly manner. Typically, a website has at least two nameservers (although more can be used, for extra redundancy). Nameservers may look alot like other domain names, with subdomains, domain and a TLD like the following:
But a nameservers could also look a little closer to IP addresses since – in the end, its not something a human needs to remember
Instead of hosting a website, nameservers assist in guiding internet traffic. To demonstrate the functionality of nameservers in directing internet traffic, let’s examine a practical case. Suppose you want to access the thedomainrobot homepage. At first glance, this appears straightforward: you input “https://thedomainrobot.com” into your browser’s address bar and instantly view the thedomainrobot homepage. Simple, isn’t it?
It seems so! – But nonetheless, in the background alot of stuff happens in a very short amount of time – the overall procedure unfolds in the following manner:
1) You type “thedomainrobot.com” into the address bar and hit enter
2) Your browser sends a request to that domain’s nameservers
3) The nameservers respond back with the IP address of the website’s server
4) Your browser requests the website content from that IP address
5) Your browser receives the content and renders it in your browser
To access a website, you initially need to connect to a Domain Name Server (DNS). However, if there’s a problem with the decentralized naming systems responsible for converting hostnames into IP addresses, you may encounter an error message like “DNS server not responding”.
Nameservers vs DNS Records
In the previous example, we intentionally omitted mentioning DNS Rercords to simplify the explanation.
DNS records are like the individual contacts in your phone book, each DNS record containing a specific type of information that other devices or services can interact with, such as your server’s IP address. Nameservers can be compared to the index or table of contents in the phone book, a place where individual DNS record are organized. While DNS as a whole is often referred to as the phone book of the Internet, a more precise analogy would be to view DNS records as the contact entries and nameservers as the table of contents.
1) Nameservers are the phone book itself.
2) DNS records are the information about a specific person/company in the phone book
If you were looking to retrieve someone’s phone number in the past, you would typically rely on a phone book. To start, you would retrieve the phone book and proceed to flip through its pages until you locate the desired information. With our new knowledge of DNS records, we can now again look at what happens when you try to fetch a website on the internet:
1) You type “thedomainrobot.com” into the address bar and hit enter.
2) Your browser uses DNS to retrieve the domain’s nameservers.
3) Your browser asks the nameserver for the A record – that contains the IP address of the web server (a specific DNS record).
4) The nameservers provide the IP address from the A record.
5) Your browser requests the website content from that IP address.
6) Your browser retrieves the content and renders it in your browser.
How to Use Nameservers in the Real World
The primary utilization of nameservers and DNS records is to direct your browser, towards your the webserver your domain is hosted on. But nameservers and the DNS records they store, are used for various other tasks, such as establishing your email account via MX records, authenticating your domain name through Google Search Console and a million other things.
Where Are Your Domain’s Nameservers Located?
The response to this query is largely “it depends”.
Initially, when you secure your domain name via a domain registrar, your domain is generally directed to the nameservers of your domain registrar. And in most cases, this is also where you have the ability to modify your domain’s nameservers. But since every TLD is supported by a different institution/company – you will also find TLD’s, like the danish TLD’s institution/company, punktum.dk, where you have changes the nameservers from their website.
You always have the option to keep your nameservers at your domain registrar and do all adjustments to DNS records their. However, it can often be a good idea to consider moving your nameserver to one of the many custom nameserver providers like
4) Open NICX
5) Azure DNS
Why use custom nameservers?
Generally its fine to use the nameserver provided by your domain registrar, but it can often be very beneficia to use a custom nameserver provider – and since its pretty easy to change your nameservers, often their is no reason, not to do it. Here is just a couple of the reason you might wanna switch.
Have your website ever been the victim of an DDOS attack? Some custom nameserver providers offer protection against these kind of attacks and hacking forays. Therefore, it may be worth considering finding a name server provider that offers extra security so that you can be calm and know that any malicious attack will be prevented by your name server.
A significant proportion of hacker/spam attacks can be thwarted by the name server, resulting in these requests never reaching your web server – meaning your site is better protected against threats such as DDOS attacks, SQL injections, comment spam, etc. And in the end, this results in a fortified and secure environment for your website.
In the year 2023, you cant have a website, without having it secured with SSL – having a website without SSL is basicly a SEO death sentence. Most webhosts today, already offers free SSL from Let’s Encrypt or similar. But today its also very common for custom nameserver providers, to offer free SSL, as a part of their service.
Caching / CDN
So why not?
Any single one of the above functions/services makes it worth using one of the many custom nameserver providers. The only real reason not to change name servers is for e.g. cloudflare, is that it can be “scary” to have to change name servers – but in reality it’s actually incredibly easy. With a little patience and a little help from one of the million guides on google – it shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes to change your nameserver.
How to Check your current Nameservers?
If you’re uncertain about the nameservers you’re presently utilizing, you can verify them via numerous Whois lookup resources by simply providing your domain name.
There are countless online whois lookup sites that make it possible to find information about a particular domain. These pages provide varying amounts of information – everything from the domain’s creation, expiration date, the domain’s registrar, the contact information, and many more things. But the vast majority of them list at least the domain’s nameservers.
NSLookup, with Windows PowerShell
Another way for the tech savy is the make use of Window’s build-in PowerShell/terminal.
Windows PowerShell is a command-line shell and scripting language developed by Microsoft. It is built on the .NET Framework and is designed for system administration, automation and configuration management. It provides full control over the Windows operating system and many aspects of the server functions. Users can perform a variety of complex administrative tasks remotely, manage files, registry keys, services and processes efficiently. Furthermore, PowerShell supports various commands, also known as cmdlets, which enable you to manage computers from the command line. PowerShell’s scripting language is more complex than the traditional Command Prompt, but it offers a much more powerful and flexible framework.
1) Open PowerShell (you can search for PowerShell in the Start bar to launch the program).
2) Type nslookup in the Powershell interface.
3) Type set q=NS and hit Enter.
4) Enter your domain name and hit Enter again.
Host -t NS your-domain-name.com
iOS Terminal is an application that provides users with a command line interface to operate their iOS device. This terminal emulator application allows users to explore their device’s file system, execute system commands, and perform various tasks that are generally not available through the device’s graphical interface. iOS terminal has root access, thus it aids in tweaking or customizing the device beyond the usual settings and parameters. Note that the use of the terminal often requires advanced knowledge or specific instructions to prevent unwanted consequences.
1) Click the Launchpad icon in the Dock.
2) Type Terminal in the search field, then click Terminal.
3) Type in host -t NS your-domain-name.com
4) Hit enter
How many nameservers can you have?
Essentially, a domain has the facility to use numerous nameservers. Respectively, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recommends a minimum of two nameservers for each domain, ensuring redundancy and preventing possible system failures. The initial nameserver serves as the primary nameserver, while others function as secondary nameservers – these secondary nameservers periodically synchronize the DNS records belonging to the primary nameserver.
Advantages of multiple nameservers
Taking advantage of multiple nameservers significantly increases your website’s reliability and security. When multiple nameservers are utilized, your site enjoys enhanced seamless access and unparalleled uptime. If one nameserver goes down, the others immediately take over, preserving your site’s accessibility, hence much reducing any possibility of an untimely outage.
Using multiple nameservers additionally increases load balancing capabilities. Traffic to your site is distributed across several servers, preventing a single server from becoming overwhelmed and potentially crashing.