What Are Name Servers and Domain Name Servers (DNS)?

It's probably safe to say that the term name server isn't something that is often brought up during most everyday conversations. In fact, there's many people who have never even heard of the term, which is completely understandable as it is a term that really doesn't have to be understood to be used. Although a name server doesn’t have to be understood to be used, if you use a computer then it's a good idea to be aware of what a name server is.

In fact, if you use a computer then it's most likely that you’ve used a name server many times. Every computer has its own personal address, which helps define that particular computer. This address is officially called an Internet Protocol (IP) address and consists of 32 numbers that are written in a very specific manner. The reason that every computer needs its very own address is so that the internet knows where to send you the information you're requesting, as well as allowing others to know where any information you are sending out comes from.

So What Exactly is a Name Server?

A name server is basically the same thing as a phone book, but for the internet. If you could peek inside a name server you would see a number of domain names that are matched up with IP addresses. Name servers were created because it would be very difficult to remember the IP addresses of where you want to visit, so instead the IP addresses are matched up to a domain name, which is much easier to remember.

Since there are many name servers located all over the world, the information found in all of them come together and can be found in what is called a central registry. Depending on where you live and whether the name server is hosted or not will determine the specific name server that you will be connected to.

And a Domain Name Server?

The fact that there are millions of domain names in existence today calls for a central system where they can all be properly managed. This system is appropriately called a Domain Name System (DNS). When you enter a domain name into a computer, the DNS translates that domain name into an address so it knows where you want to go. Now, part of the DNS is made up of domain name servers. A domain name server refers to any computer that has registered with the DNS and uses special networking software to manage its database of domain names and addresses.

DNS servers are used to communicate via private network practices. When you're at home and you want to connect to a domain, your computer will locate one of the DNS servers near you so that it can translate the domain name into an IP address so that you can become connected. If that particular DNS server does not happen to have the information to take you where you want to go, then it will forward your request to another server until the required information is found.

Bottom Line

A name server and a domain name server are very similar internet delivery systems. The name server essentially holds information and configures a special space for a domain to be placed where it's given the appropriate IP address. This means that when people send you an email, their mail server will request the name server for your domain and will accordingly get the IP address so it can indeed be sent. A domain name server is exclusive to domain names only. Also, a domain name server only stores the domain names and associated IP addresses for a limited time in a cache. This means the first domain server may have to connect with a second, etc. until it is able to find the required information so you can connect to where you want to go.