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. We’ll also go over InMotion Hosting’s public name servers, vanity name servers, and custom name servers.
The terms name server and nameserver are interchangeable and refer to the exact same thing. We wanted to point this out explicitly to avoid any confusion, as you’ll see it displayed both ways across the Internet.
- What Is a Name Server?
- Vanity Name Servers
- Custom Name Servers
- What Name Servers Am I Using?
- What Are InMotion Hosting’s Name Servers?
- How Do I Update My Name Servers?
What Is a Name Server?
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 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 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?
How exactly did your computer know what webpage to display for you, or what server to pull it from?
- Your web-browser knows you typed InMotionHosting.com into the address bar.
- Your computer then uses DNS to retrieve the current name servers for InMotionHosting.com.
- Our public name servers; ns1.inmotionhosting.com and ns2.inmotionhosting.com are retrieved.
- Your computer asks our name servers for the A (address) record for InMotionHosting.com.
- Our public name servers respond back with the IP address 220.127.116.11
- Your computer sends a request to that IP address along with the page you’re requesting.
- Our web server hosting InMotionHosting.com then sends your web-browser the requested page.
Now if you wanted to, you could bookmark or copy down http://18.104.22.168 for anytime you’d like to come back to our website.
Vanity Name Servers
A vanity name server is a name server that is branded to a domain 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. Like vanity name servers, the nameserver’s name will have your personal branding. This branding won’t just direct back to a provider’s name server, though, but to one you’ve set up.
This gives you a great deal of control, but may not be the best choice for you depending on your sites, server, and traffic. Make sure you’re comfortable managing and optimizing your server resources before you take responsibility for the name server resources as well.
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 the Windows 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
- 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:
ns1.inmotionhosting.com internet address = 22.214.171.124
ns2.inmotionhosting.com internet address = 126.96.36.199
What Are InMotion Hosting’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:
and ns2.inmotionhosting.com (188.8.131.52)
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 184.108.40.206.
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 220.127.116.11 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, you need to visit your domain registrar and point the domain to the name servers you want to use.
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. It also contains links to other popular domain registrars and the steps you’d take with them to update your name servers.