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Edit the Correct Name Servers For Your Domain

Find the Right Name Server, Or You Won't Be Able to Map Your Domain

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When you want to connect a domain to a web site, you need to make this change on the correct "name server" for this domain.

A name server takes domain names, like pineapplesrule.com, and routes each one to the particular IP address for the server that hosts that web site. (Technically, this is called a "DNS server", since there are other kinds of name servers.)

Since domain names are like phone numbers, a name server is like a phone book. A phone book tells you that this phone number will go to that address.

Web Host vs. Domain Registrar

So, how do you know which name server you need to work with for your domain?

In my experience, this is the tricky part. It completely depends on your particular web host. (Remember, the web host is separate from the domain registrar.)

The web host is where you pay, often by the month, to rent server space. You're paying technicians to run the computers that serve the files, software, databases, and so on for your web site.

However, it's extremely common for the web host to also handle your registering your domain. It's a package deal. Behind the scenes, they go and register your domain with a registrar for you.

The domain registrar is a whole separate entity.

That's why you can also go directly to a registrar and "buy a domain name" for a yearly fee.

Web Hosts Are Not Consistent About DNS Records

The problem is that web hosts are not consistent in how they handle DNS name servers.

Almost every web host will provide you some sort of "administrator area" or "control panel" where you can do things like install software.

Also, almost every web host will probably have you "add a site" from within this control panel. Usually, this means entering the domain name for the site, and also a subdirectory (subfolder) which will hold some of the files for that site.

However, web hosts differ in which name server they want you to use for your domains.

Two Common Methods for Connecting a Domain to a Web Site

Your web host may want you to set your domain to use their name servers.

Or, your web host may want to you to set your domain to use the registrar's name servers. If so, you'll need to add a record on those name servers, and map the domain to the web host IP address.

Let's look at these options in more detail. Don't feel like you need to understand all this incredibly deeply. The key here is that the right method for you will largely depend on your web host.

Web Host Name Servers

Some web hosts, perhaps many of them, want you to use their domain name servers. Even if you buy the domain name for a second site directly from a domain registrar, you still need to use your web host's name servers.

Fortunately, this is fairly easy. First, add the site within the web host control panel. Most web hosts should make this easy.

Then, log in at the domain registrar where you purchased the new domain name. Set this domain to use your web hosts' domain name servers.

Often, the name servers will be something like NS1.NAMEOFWEBHOST.COM, NS2.NAMEOFWEBHOST.COM, etc. If you don't know them, dig up the welcome emails that the host sent you when you first bought the domain. If that fails, search on "name server" in the support area of your web host web site.

In this setup, all your domain registrar does is make sure your domain uses your web host's name servers. Everything else happens at your web host.

This can be very easy to set up, and some might say you should always try this way first.

Registrar Name Servers

However, there are a few web hosts who work things differently. Instead of using their name servers, they'll tell you to edit the "DNS records" or "zone file" directly. This probably means you'll be using the domain registrar's DNS servers.

For instance, you might add an "A record" that points to the web host IP address. This can sound intimidating, but it's pretty easy.

The first step, as before, is to log in to the web host control panel and see if they have any mechanism for "adding a site". Even though you won't be using their name servers, their software still needs to "know" what to do with this domain name.

Then, you'll log in to your domain registrar. Instead of changing the name servers, you'll click something like Edit DNS or Edit Zone File. It can take some effort to hunt down the right place to make this change.

You'll either add an A record, or change the IP address for the existing record.

For instance, the current A record for about.com, at least from my computer, is 207.241.148.80.

Essentially, this means that when I type about.com in my browser, I should get rerouted to the IP address of 207.241.148.80.

Two Methods, Same Result

Whichever method you use, your goal is simple. You want to type your new domain name into the browser, and land at your the new web site you've set up on your web host.

If it doesn't work right away, wait. Give it a few minutes, then an hour. This is one aspect of the Internet that isn't always instant.

The main problem I've found here is that I try to use the registrar name servers, and then find out that the web host refuses to use any name servers but its own. Even if you add the A record correctly at the domain registrar, it won't do you any good if the web host ignores it. That's why I suggest you try using the web host name servers first. Or at least have this as a backup plan.

This is only a quick introduction to the arcane art of connecting domain names to web sites. There are other methods. And, with many web hosts, you might be able to use either method. But this should point you in the right direction.

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