Nameservers vs. DNS

Written by Web Hosting Expert

Reviewed by Technical Editor

Updated April 1, 2024
Nameservers vs. DNS

If you're moving your website to a new hosting provider, you might wonder about your domain registration and if your visitors will still find your site.

In that case, understanding the Domain Name System (DNS) and nameservers is your ticket to a smooth transition.

This guide will explain how DNS records and nameservers work to help you manage your site's move more effectively.

What is a DNS?


DNS, or Domain Name System, is a distributed database for resources such as computers connected to the Internet.

This system helps browsers find and load websites by translating the names we use (like www.example.com) into the numerical IP addresses (for instance, 32.12.51.24) that computers understand.

When you register a domain, DNS records are created, including a nameserver.

This nameserver points your domain to your registrar or hosting provider's IP address, connecting your website to the internet.

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What Is a Nameserver?


A nameserver is a server on the internet that links your website's URL to the IP address of the server that is hosting your website.

It specializes in handling queries regarding the location of a domain name’s various online services.

Simply put, nameservers are a crucial part of the Internet's DNS that allow users to access websites using domain names rather than IP addresses, which are harder to remember.

A nameserver is what enables browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome to load the right website when you type in a web address.

For example, when you enter "example.com" into a browser, the nameserver tells the browser where to find the site. Without nameservers, browsers couldn't load websites.

How Does DNS Work?


The DNS efficiently translates domain names into IP addresses, enabling browsers to access internet resources swiftly through a multi-step query process that spans global servers.

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

1. DNS Query Initiation: A user's browser sends a DNS query to find a website's IP address.

2. DNS Recursive Resolver: Acts on the user’s behalf to locate the IP address, first checking its cache.

3. Root Nameservers: If uncached, the query is sent to root nameservers identifying the Top-Level Domain (TLD) nameserver.

4. TLD Nameserver: Directs the query to the specific domain's authoritative nameserver.

5. Authoritative Nameserver: Provides the IP address of the domain.

6. DNS Resolver Response: Returns the IP address to the user's computer, allowing the browser to connect to the website.

This entire process, despite involving multiple steps and servers across the globe, takes just milliseconds to complete, thanks to the efficiency of the DNS.

Furthermore, DNS caching at various levels—by the user's operating system, the resolver, and the browser—helps speed up the process for frequently visited websites.

Types of DNS servers

  • Caching only servers provide cached DNS response services and don't maintain zone files, unlike secondary servers which do.

  • Primary servers handle all zone administrative tasks and changes to records; there's only one primary server per zone unless integrated with Microsoft DNS Server and Active Directory Services.

  • Secondary servers receive zone files from the primary server and can serve multiple zones to reduce traffic, improve fault tolerance, and balance loads.

Why Is DNS Important?


DNS is crucial because it allows us to connect to websites without remembering their complex numerical IP addresses.

Instead, we simply type in an easy-to-remember domain names, and DNS translates it into the IP address for us.

If the DNS isn't working, we can't access websites because the domain names won't translate to IP addresses.

Essentially, the internet wouldn't function as we know it without DNS, even though it's technically possible to enter an IP address directly into a browser, which is rarely done today.

What Is DNS Cache?


DNS caching stores DNS records on a local server or client, reducing the need for new DNS queries.

This temporary database holds information about websites you visit or attempt to visit.

By keeping data closer to the user, DNS caching speeds up website loading times and cuts down on CPU and bandwidth use.

Difference Between Nameserver and DNS


AspectDNS (Domain Name System)Nameserver
PurposeUsed every time you access an IP application (email, web browsing, etc.). Translates hostnames into IP addresses to load internet resources.Caches or hosts the translations of hostnames into IP addresses.
DefinitionA set of protocols allowing computers to communicate over the Internet. Translates human-readable domain names into IP addresses.A server where DNS information is stored, making it accessible on the Internet. It connects IP addresses with URLs and links registrars to hosting providers.
OperationTranslates domain names into IP addresses and vice versa. Essential for the functioning of all IP network applications.Translates names to IP addresses, simplifying network management and response to changes. Requires only the resource name and nameserver address.

How To Use Nameservers and DNS Records


  1. In order to add a DNS resource record, the first thing you need to do is to click IPAM in Server Manager, and the IPAM client console will be displayed.

  2. Go to "DNS Zones" in the "Monitor and Manage" section of the navigation page.

  3. Select "Forward Lookup" in the lower navigation pane to display all IPAM-managed DNS Forward Lookup zones.

  4. Right-click the zone where you want to add a record and select "Add DNS resource record."

  5. In the "Add DNS Resource Records" dialog box, select the DNS server in "Resource record properties."

  6. Choose "New" in "Configure DNS Resource Records," then select the type of resource record you want to add.

  7. Enter the resource record name and IP address, select the appropriate properties, and click "Add Resource record."

  8. Apply the same process to add more records. Click "Apply" after creating new records.

  9. A summary of the resource records will be shown with a "Success" status for successfully created records. Click "OK" to finish.

DNS and Web Performance: Maximizing Speed and Reliability


By optimizing DNS settings, websites can achieve faster performance and enhanced reliability. Here's how to maximize speed and reliability through DNS:

  • Choose a reliable DNS provider for better uptime, speed, and security.
  • Use DNS caching to save and quickly recall query results.
  • Implement GeoDNS to direct users to the closest server, improving speed.
  • Enable DNS prefetching for faster loading of external resources.
  • Adopt Anycast DNS for quicker and more reliable responses from the nearest server.
  • Minimize DNS lookups by consolidating resources on the same domain.

DNS for Developers: Best Practices and Tools


DNS management is a crucial aspect of web development that ensures users can access your website quickly and reliably.

Let’s quickly review some best practices and tools that developers can use to streamline DNS management and enhance website performance:

  • Automate DNS Changes: Use tools like Terraform or Ansible for automatic DNS setup and changes, reducing errors and increasing efficiency.

  • Use Monitoring Tools: Utilize services like DNSimple, Dyn, and Cloudflare for real-time alerts on DNS issues, improving site availability.

  • Implement DNSSEC: Adds security by ensuring DNS responses are authentic, preventing DNS poisoning.

  • Strategically Set TTL: Adjust Time to Live based on needs; lower for quick updates, higher for stable records to speed up website loading.

  • Choose Reliable Providers: Select DNS providers with high speed, uptime, and support, including features like DNS failover and geo-DNS.

  • Use Redundant DNS: Have a backup DNS provider to keep your site accessible during primary provider downtimes.

  • Monitor Performance: Use tools like Pingdom and Google's PageSpeed Insights to understand DNS's impact on site performance and make improvements.

  • Stay Updated: Keep up with DNS management trends, tools, and best practices by following relevant blogs and communities.

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Quick Recap


Knowing about DNS records and nameservers is key for a smooth switch when moving your website to a new host.

It's important to ensure your domain name points to the correct nameserver.

A nameserver, which hosts the DNS records for your domain, helps manage, scale, and organize domain names, solving many internet-related challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I choose a domain name?

To choose a domain name for yourself, avoid hyphens, stay unique and brandable, keep your domain name short, and avoid using doubled letters.

Can I buy a domain name permanently?

Domain name registration is done on a yearly basis, and you cannot buy a domain name permanently.

How do I see who owns a domain name?

You can use the WHOIS domain lookup tool to find out who owns a certain domain name.

What makes a certain domain valuable?

Valuable domains are usually memorable, easy to spell, pronounce, and short.

What is the difference between a DNS zone and a nameserver?

A DNS zone is part of the DNS namespace controlled by a specific group or person. It lets them closely manage DNS details, like nameservers, in a structured system with the DNS root domain at the top.

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