What is a name server?
In this article we'll explain what a name server is, and how name servers are used to direct the traffic of your website to a specific web server at a web host.
The terms name server, and nameserver are interchangeable and refer to the exact same thing. I wanted to point this out explicitly to avoid any confusion as you'll see it displayed both ways across the Internet.
What are name servers?
A name server is a specialized server on the Internet that handles queries or questions from your local computer, about the location of a domain name's various services.
A great simple way to think about name servers is using a phone book analogy. If you were trying to call InMotion Hosting you might have remembered our phone number, but more than likely you'd want to look it up before just guessing at numbers.
This same story is also true for the Internet and domain names. As an example you're reading this article right now on our InMotionHosting.com domain name.
What do DNS requests to name servers look like?
But just how exactly did your computer know what webpage to display for you, and what server to pull it from?
Now if you wanted to, you could bookmark or copy down http://188.8.131.52 for anytime you'd like to come back to our website.
More than likely though, InMotionHosting.com is going to be much easier for you to remember, and this is why nameservers exist on the Internet.
Vanity name servers
A vanity nameserver is a name server that is branded to a website of your choice, instead of our public name servers. This can make your site appear more professional, by masking the fact you're using our name servers.
With vanity name servers you are just hiding or masking the hostname of our public name servers, but the IP addresses and the physical servers handling your website's DNS requests would still be our public name servers.
Custom name servers
A custom name server allows you to run your own name server to respond to DNS requests for your domains. It is also a requirement for VPS and dedicated server customers who wish to have root access on their servers, since with root access you can modify the DNS zones on the server, and having access to our public name server zones would be a security risk.
What name servers am I using?
To check and see the name servers your domain name is currently set to use, you can either use our domain routing tool to view this DNS information, or by using the Windows command prompt following the steps below.
Check from command prompt
- In Windows click on Start, in the Search programs and files field type in cmd, then hit Enter.
- With the command prompt opened, type in the following command and hit Enter
- You should now be at the nslookup prompt indicated by >
Specify you'd just like to see NS (Name Server) records of the domain by typing in the following:
Hit Enter to be dropped to the next line, and here is where you'll type in your domain name:
For this example we used InMotionHosting.com and we get back our public name servers:
ns.inmotionhosting.com internet address = 184.108.40.206
ns2.inmotionhosting.com internet address = 220.127.116.11
What are InMotion's name servers?
If you register your domain name through us, by default you'll be using our public name servers automatically. If you registered your domain name somewhere else and would like to have the domain hosted with us, you'll want to update your domain's name server records to point to our public name servers.
Here are InMotion Hosting's public name servers and IP addresses:
Anytime you're making DNS changes, especially relating to changing your name servers it can take between 24-48 hours for those new settings to fully propagate out over the Internet.
Do I have to use these?
Setting your domain's name servers are basically just letting your domain Registrar know where to send DNS requests for your domain to. So technically it is not required that you use our public name servers in order to have your domain name hosted with us.
If you already have access to directly modify your DNS records for your domain, you can simply modify your DNS records so they directly point to the IP address of the server you're using with us.
So in our case from the earlier example with InMotionHosting.com we saw the IP address we were getting back from our public name servers was 18.104.22.168.
If we update the NS (Name Server) records for InMotionHosting.com to use ns1/2.MyCustomDomain.com instead of our public name servers. As long as we still have an A (Address) DNS record pointing to 22.214.171.124 on those name servers as well, the website would still be pulled from the same physical web server.
How do I update my name servers?
In order to update your domain name's name servers, this modification needs to be made at your domain Registrar where the domain name was registered at.
You can read our guide on updating your domain's name servers for more in-depth information on this process. It covers how you can update domain name servers registered through us from our AMP interface, and it also contains links to other popular domain Registrars, and the steps you'd take with them to update your name servers.
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