What is a Name Server (DNS): Explanation & FAQs
When it comes to the internet, there are a lot of different terms and technicalities that you are unaware of that make everything work. For example, when you type in a URL address into the search bar, how does your computer know what web page to bring up? To put it simply, your computer relies on name servers to find the webpage that you’re looking for and bring it to you.
So what is a name server? Well, it basically is a server on the internet that translates a web address into an IP address so that you can access that web page. You can think of it as a directory, that searches for the specific web address you are trying to find, locates the IP address and then opens it on your computer, where it is converted back into a domain name.
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Is It Different From A Domain Name?
The domain name, for example, www.google.com, is different from the server name. When you purchase a specific domain name it comes with a name server based on what registry company you are using, like GoDaddy.com. So what is a domain name server? Is just another name for the name server (also a called DNS server) because it comes from your domain name.
The name server is the directory that matches your specific domain name to it’s IP address. If your computer doesn’t already know the IP address for a domain name that you are searching for, it will use name servers to find out what the IP address is so that it can access the web page at that domain name.
Even though most people don’t know what a server name is, it is a huge part of the internet. Without a name server to help your computer locate an IP address, domain names would be useless. It would be a lot harder to find what you’re looking for online.
What is DNS?
DNS, or Domain Name System, is the system that your computer uses to find the name server where a specific IP address is located. Essentially the whole internet relies on this system. It seems complicated, and it is, but it can also easily be broken down into simple steps. Watch this video to get a better understanding of DNS.
It is amazing to think that the DNS can access and locate all of this information in a matter of a few milliseconds. Thanks to name servers the DNS knows where to go to find out what the IP address is of any website and quickly bring that information back to your computer and show you the web page you were looking for.
Pretty neat, right? Without DNS we would basically not be able to use the internet because our operating systems would not now what IP address certain websites are located at. Thus we would never find what we’re looking for.
What Is My Name Server
Now that you know what a name server is you’re probably wondering, “How do I find my name server?” Because name servers depend on the registry company that you purchased your domain through, the process of finding out what your exact name server is will be slightly different from company to company. Name servers are specific to certain domain name registrar companies so that the operating system knows what company to ask where to find the IP address.
Depending on the company that you use, you’ll want to go to the backend of your website. Log into your domain name account, which would be something like GoDaddy.com or BlueHost.com. Then find the section where you can manage your domain names. Your name server should be located somewhere in this section. For more information, see your domain name registry’s website and get more details.
You know what a name server is now, but what is a server name and how is it different? The server name is different from a name server. It is specific to your individual computer. A server name lets you identify different servers and you can change this as you wish. It is not for public information, like a domain name, it is simply a way for you to keep track of your own servers.
You may be wondering, “What is my server name and how do I find my server name?” This will vary depending on your computer. You can access your server name by finding the basic information on your computer. For a Windows computer, click on the My Computer and click on properties to find the server name.
For a Mac computer, go to System Preferences, and click Sharing Preferences. On Linux, you can use the hostname command. Open a command-line terminal, type hostname, press enter and it will give you the information. For more instructions, you can go to each company’s specific help pages to find out more.
Technical terms on the internet don’t have to be confusing. Although the names and terms often can be a bit hard to understand at first, when you break them down into smaller, more easy to understand terms you can see how each piece plays a part of the larger puzzle.
For most people, they will never know or have a need to know what is a name server. But if you want to be aware of how the internet works and more importantly use it, it’s important to note how name servers play a large role in how the internet works.
In simple terms, a name server is a directory that houses information about where a specific web page is. Because humans can’t remember tons of IP addresses, we rely on domain names to find specific websites. And the name servers are what tells your computer what IP address is associated with that domain name. It’s as easy as that.
So keep that in mind the next time you type in a website into your browser. It’s amazing all of the interactions that occur in the tiny amount of time between hitting enter and seeing the web page appear.