The Low Down: What is a Nameserver & Why it Matters For Your Website

Opening your browser and surfing the net is a smooth process of typing in domain names and being taken to web pages. Behind the scenes, your requests are pinging servers worldwide that locate the right IP address to take you where you want to go. 

The process you’re using is called the Domain Name System (DNS), and it utilizes nameservers.

But what is a nameserver? And how does it fit into your website?

Nameservers help navigate traffic around the internet by translating a domain name into an IP address. 

This may not seem like necessary information for the average internet user, but you should know what a name server is and where yours is located if you run a website. 

If you bought your domain on one registrar and use another for hosting, you need to make sure your nameservers are configured correctly. You might also need to point other domain names to your website, update your mail server, or set up a private nameserver for your website. 

Learning what a nameserver is and all the related records it affects will help you better run your website. Proper nameserver management will ensure that traffic will flow effortlessly to your website. 

Read on to learn: 

  • What is a nameserver
  • The difference between DNS and nameservers
  • Why nameservers matter and how to find them
  • Using Bluehost to change nameservers
  • Modifying your nameservers with other registrars
  • How long it takes to update nameservers

What is a Nameserver? 

A nameserver, also referred to as “name server,” is a server designed to translate domain names into IP addresses. It handles queries from clients, like a computer or tablet, about the location of a domain name and its services on the DNS servers. 

Any server that has DNS software can be considered a nameserver. But the term is commonly used to refer to a hosting provider’s web server where it manages and maintains the domain names for their customers. 

Nameservers vs DNS

There’s occasional confusion between nameservers and the domain name system. So let’s clarify; nameservers make up the DNS. 

The better question is, “What is a nameserver’s function in DNS?”

DNS is frequently referred to as the phone book of the internet. DNS is composed of nameservers that connect IP addresses to domain names, which saves us from memorizing strings of numbers when we want to visit our favorite website. 

In the milliseconds it takes to load a webpage, DNS is working behind the scenes. 

When you type in a URL, like example.com, the URL gets broken up into sections. The “.com” takes it to a top-level domain (TLD) nameserver, which then points the query to the nameserver that contains “example.” Then that information is brought back to your browser. 

DNS Records

It’s also worth mentioning the importance of DNS records, which are like the entries in the phone book of DNS. Multiple DNS records serve different purposes on your website. 

Here are some of the most common: 

  • A Record (Address Record): Directs your domain or subdomain to an IP address
  • MX entry (Mail Exchanger): Points email to a specific mail server 
  • CNAME (Canonical Name): Connects a domain or subdomain to another domain name 

Why Nameservers are Important For Your Website

You might be wondering, “What is a nameserver’s significance for my website?” 

When you create a website, you want people to be able to find it on the internet — and nameservers facilitate that process.

A nameserver is the location of your website. Just like a brick and mortar store owner should know their address, you should know your nameserver.

There are multiple instances you’ll need to know your nameserver. For example, if you bought a domain name from a different registrar than your web hosting platform, then you’ll need to point that domain name to the correct location. 

Or, if you decide to change web hosting companies, you can redirect your domain name to the nameservers at your new hosting provider. This way, your traffic doesn’t get interrupted, and you don’t have to start from square one with a new domain name.

How to Find Your Nameserver in Bluehost and On the Web

Log in to your Bluehost account and go to the Manage button on your sidebar. In that menu, click DNS and then go to the Name Servers section. 

There, if you set up your WordPress website with Bluehost, you’ll see Bluehost’s nameservers

  • ns1.bluehost.com
  • ns2.bluehost.com

There are usually at least two nameservers for backup and redundancy purposes, and it also ensures customers get where they need to go if one server fails. 

You can also modify your DNS records in the DNS Manager

Nameserver Lookup

If you didn’t initially set up your website with Bluehost or aren’t sure where your nameserver is, you could look up it’s location using various tools on the web. 

Resources like MXToolbox or the DNS lookup tool on ICANN, which helps manage DNS, can help you find the nameserver for your domain.

These tools can also come in handy when you’re trying to verify your nameservers are set up correctly and pointing to the right place. 

Setting up a Custom Nameserver 

If you set up your domain name and web hosting with Bluehost, your default nameservers would come from Bluehost. But there are reasons you might want to set up a custom nameserver instead. 

Once you learn what a nameserver is, you can assess whether to set up a private nameserver for your business. You may decide to do this if you have to change your nameserver or reconfigure your website’s structure. 

Why You’d Want a Private Nameserver

Setting up a private nameserver isn’t necessary for every website, but there are some advantages. 

Custom namerservers:

  • Boost branding
  • Make it simpler for customers to know your nameserver
  • Give you more freedom to change hosting providers easily
  • Give you more control of aspects like DNS, privacy, and security 

To set up a private nameserver on Bluehost, you’ll need a VPS or Dedicated Hosting account. Then, you’ll need to configure the settings in your cPanel

Updating a Custom Nameserver in Bluehost

Changing your nameserver in Bluehost is a simple process. First, decide if it’s necessary to make the change or if you can use another tool, like an A record or CNAME, instead. 

A nameserver change is only needed when you’re changing the control of your domain’s DNS management.

If you do decide to update your custom nameserver, go to your DNS Manager on Bluehost. There you’ll see the option to point your domain to custom nameservers. 

When you’re finished, do a nameserver check to make sure it’s configured correctly. 

Modifying Nameservers with Other Registrars

Each registrar has its own process of updating nameservers. Bluehost provides instructions for correctly pointing your domain name to Bluehost’s servers. 

Typically, you’ll go to the place on your hosting company’s dashboard, where you can make DNS changes. From there, you can modify your website’s records to point to Bluehost’s nameservers

You can also transfer your domain to Bluehost, letting you control your website all in one location. Point your nameservers to Bluehost first so that the transfer is smooth and non-disruptive.

How Long Does It Take for Nameservers to Update?

Anytime you change DNS records, it takes time for the update to take effect across the internet. This is called DNS propagation, and it can take up to 48 hours. 

Changes can be seen soon after you update, but it could still be updating in other regions. So allow up to 48 hours for your nameservers to propagate fully. 

You can check the status of your update on tools like DNSchecker.org.

Nameservers are an integral part of the domain name system. Without them, you’d have to memorize an IP address for every website you visit. 

Knowing what a nameserver is helps you better navigate the internet, but it can also help you manage your website. 

Whether you need to point your domain name toward your web host’s nameservers or you want to set up a private server, nameservers help you direct traffic to your website. 

You can easily find and change your nameservers with Bluehost’s DNS manager or on whatever registrar you’re using. If you do decide to set up a custom server in Bluehost, use a nameserver checker to do a DNS lookup and make sure they’re pointed to the right place.

Are you looking for a reliable web host? Get started with Bluehost’s hosting packages today.

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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