It may sound familiar to people who own web hosting accounts. Normally it isn’t something they need to bother about, and web hosts generally don’t go into detail about name servers either.
So what’s so special about name servers then?
For starters, it’s because of these name servers that your website appear visible on the web. To be more specific, you need to ask how the browser takes you to a website when you type in the website address.
All will be explained. But first, let’s get into the basic details.
Where it all begins
It all begins when you buy a domain name for your online business. This name gives you an identity in the digital realm, a home for your website and a path for users who want to visit that website. Your web host can take care of domain name registration and name servers allocation.
Normally, you will be given two name servers referred to as ns1 and ns2, and it doesn’t take too long either.
For instance, ns1.yourdomain.com and ns2.yourdomain.com
The name servers can answer that question we discussed above… you know…about how the browser takes you to a website.
Let’s just assume the website is yours, in this case. So how does a browser take other visitors to your website? Name servers, of course.
And how does a Name Server work?
Every website on the internet has its own identity. We call it the IP address – basically a set of numbers by which the machine recognizes the website. You can remember the IP address of every website you visit…..if you are a genius that is. Normal humans remember a website by its domain name.
Warning: Memorizing IP addresses can drive you crazy
So how does the machine read the IP? That’s where DNS comes in. Standing for Domain Name System, the DNS is basically a phone directory for computers. It converts a domain name to its IP address so that the machine can understand.
So if your domain name is “www.thislinkdoesntwork.com”, the DNS transforms it to its machine-readable IP form like “126.96.36.199”. The DNS does this by using name servers.
Starting to get the idea, right?
So when someone types a domain name in the browser, the name server in the DNS sends the IP of that domain name to the browser. So basically, the name server is a server with DNS software in it.
However, in modern times, it’s mostly the term for those servers that web hosts own. They use it to manage domain names of their customers.
To summarize, this is what happens when you visit your website.
- You enter “www.thislinkdoesntworkaswell.com” into the browser
- The DNS finds the name servers for “www.thislinkdoesntworkaswell.com”
- It then retrieves your ns1.yourdomain.com and ns2.yourdomain.com
- The browser finds the IP address of “www.thislinkdoesntworkaswell.com” using name servers
- The browser then sends a request to that IP address, normally to the page you want your browser to show
- Your web host sends that page to your browser
The other uses of a Name Server
A few other things name servers do:
- Diverts traffic on your domain to a web server of a specific web host
- Makes websites visible on the internet
- Helps customers locate your business
- Safeguards data from unauthorized accesses
- Breaks domains into subdomains