You have selected a domain name, registered it and signed up with a web host. What’s next? Your web host has to provide you with details about how to get your site up and running. This information includes passwords to get into your account, paths to directories where your files should be uploaded, and most importantly, what your domain name servers are.
Domain name servers (DNS) provide the link between your domain name (mywebsite.com) and your Internet Protocol (IP) address. The IP address is a series of numbers like this: 123.456.78.9. Every web server has a unique IP address which, in the case of dedicated servers hosting a single domain, is equivalent to the domain name. A site hosted on a dedicated server will respond to either 123.456.78.9 or mywebsite.com by serving the requested webpage.
Most websites, though, are hosted on shared servers. This means that one server is home to many different websites, but they each have the same IP address. If you type in a shared IP address you will get an error page or will be redirected to the web hosting company’s web site. So DNS is necessary for websites on shared servers. Domain names are the only way to request these websites – they cannot be requested by IP address.
When you first purchase a domain name, it will be registered on the DNS of the registrar. Until you arrange for a web host, the registrar company will usually redirect requests for your domain name to an error page or an ‘Under Construction’ page. Note that there is no time limit between buying a domain name and finding a host. Some people purchase domain names without ever intending to build a website on them. Most people, though, buy a domain name with the intention of using it. To do that, you need to open an account with a web host and prepare to transfer your site to their server. Part of the process of preparing your site for publication on the World Wide Web is to alert your domain name registrar of the DNS of your new server.
A DNS configuration looks something like this:
Primary Name Server: NSA.NEWDAYDNS.COM (22.214.171.124)
Secondary Name Server: NSB.NEWDAYDNS.COM (126.96.36.199)
This information is available from your hosting company either in their informational package that they email to you, or on their website. If you can’t find the DNS it’s best to contact your web host and ask for it. Once you have the DNS information you can usually enter it into your account on the website of your registrar. If you have purchased your domain name from the hosting company, they will usually make the necessary changes for you when they set up your account.
When the DNS is registered or modified (when changing web hosts) it can take up to 24 hours for your site to be accessible from everywhere in the world. This is because domain names are registered in a distributed data base that is maintained on thousands of computers around the world. Each computer has a small part of the database in cache, and if they receive a request for an unknown domain that request has to be forwarded to another computer until the information is found.