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TUTORIAL: Nameservers and DNS explained
Before we begin, we will bring up the output of a WHOIS Lookup on a domain name.

The WHOIS databases are publicly accessible records that will show you all the useful information about a domain name, such as who owns it, when it was registered and where it 'points' to.

The below is the output for a .co.uk name from the Nominet WHOIS lookup located at http://www.nic.uk:

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Nameservers

Every domain name will have a set of at least two nameservers, as you can see on the WHOIS results:

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Whenever you do type a domain name into a web browser or send an email, then your request will go straight to these nameservers

In very simple terms, a nameserver is a computer that will convert these requests to tell them where to go, as you will probably want your emails to go to a different location than you will your web page requests (as most hosts will have separate servers for emails and web requests).

When your request reaches the nameserver, then there is a specific set of rules on the nameserver that tell your request where it needs to go to. These are known as a Zone File


Zone Files
As mentioned above, a Zone File contains the records that will send your request to the correct location.

A Zone File contains several records, however the most commonly used ones are A Records and MX Records

The 'A Record' will simply tell a certain type of request to go to a particular computer, which it identifies with an IP Address (an IP address is a unique reference to every computer on the internet).

So for example, there may be an A Record for www.daily.co.uk to resolve to 195.26.90.15, which happens to be the IP address of our web server.

An MX Record works in a similar way, by redirecting email requests to a specific server.


Example
1) You type www.daily.co.uk into your web browser
2) The browser looks for the nameservers and finds ns1 and ns2.daily.co.uk
3) The nameserver notices that your request was for www. so the corresponding A record in the zone file forwards your request to the Daily web server
4) The web server returns a web page.



Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen if I change the nameservers for my domain name away from Daily?
If you do this, then our Zone File will not be referenced as the zone file resides on the nameservers (so if your domain does not look at our nameservers then it will never read the Zone File).

Instead your domain requests will resolve to your new nameservers and look for a Zone File there instead.

What happens if there are no Zone Files for my domain or particular nameservers?
If this is the case, then your web and email requests will fail. The request will reach the nameservers, however if there is no Zone File then your request will not do anything when it reaches them.


Last Updated: 20/01/2015
Article ID: 1097
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