The Domain Name System (DNS) is like the ancient boiler in the building basement. Everyone knows it does something important but only the building Super ought to mess with it.
Still, there are things that every website owner should know about DNS. The first is the difference between DNS and domain registration. Domain registration is the process by which you reserve a domain name (like webdancers.com) for your own use. DNS is the system for directing requests for that domain name to the proper computer on the internet.
For example, Webdancers uses a hosting company for our website and Google for email. When someone uses a web browser to view the website, DNS directs the request to the proper web server in Dallas. When someone sends me an email, DNS directs it to the proper Google mail server…somewhere.
The primary job of DNS is translating names into numbers. For this reason, DNS servers are also known as nameservers. Every domain registration has to specify the nameservers (there are always at least two) that the domain name will use. When a domain name is first registered, the nameservers of the registrar (Namecheap, GoDaddy, etc.) will be used by default. When you set up a website, the nameservers will often be changed to those of the hosting company.
Know where your DNS lives
The good news is, you don’t need to know how to manage DNS. But you do need to know who to call when management is needed. Situations that require DNS changes include:
- Any changes to hosting of web or email services
- The addition of a sub-domain (e.g. support.webdancers.com)
- Email authentication systems like DKIM and SPF
If you have a website, chances are good that your DNS is handled by the same company that hosts the site. Otherwise, the place to start is the company where you registered the domain.
To verify where your DNS is hosted, pay a visit to your domain registrar (if you don’t know who that is, find out right now) and look for the area where the nameservers are listed. The name of the company is often part of the nameserver address. For instance, all sites managed and hosted by Webdancers use the nameservers ns3.webdancers.com and ns4.webdancers.com. Don’t change anything while you’re there, but now you know.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You now have a little more insight into the inner workings of your website and who can help you fix any issues that might arise. If you have any questions about DNS, feel free to add them in the comments below.