Name servers are servers that hold all of your DNS records. That’s all they do.
But obviously, I just threw in another technical term which probably doesn’t help.
That leaves us with the question, what are DNS records?
As an oversimplification, DNS records are a list of records that tell the internet where to send the internet traffic that hits your domain and subdomains.
Every domain name has NS records
Every domain name points to name servers via something called NS records.
What’s an NS record? A record with your domain name registration company that tells the internet where to find your name servers.
You’ll usually have multiple NS records so that if one of the name servers doesn’t work, there’s a fallback to another (typically identical) name server.
One important distinction though is that NS Records. Are not the same as DNS records.
Name servers point to DNS records
Once the internet finds your name server, it will ask that name server for specific DNS records. It will ask questions like, what’s the IP address for www.chiedolabs.com or what IP address should I send emails to for email@example.com?
But Name servers do one thing. They store and provide your DNS records to the internet.
And NS records do one thing. They store and provide your Name servers to the internet.
So where should you keep your name servers?
If you registered your domain name with one company and were doing web hosting with another, where would your name servers be?
It doesn’t matter. In either case, your NS records (the records where you list your name server) will always be with the domain name registrar. But your name servers could be anywhere. If you want your name servers to be with the hosting company, then update the NS records with the Name servers that the hosting company gives you. If you want your Name servers to be with your domain name registrar, then update the NS records with the name servers that your domain name registrar gives you (usually you can just select use default name servers in that case).
But ultimately, if you want to know where your name servers are and want to know where you should be updating your DNS records, look at the NS records you’ve set with your domain registration company. And that will tell you where to go.
Simple right? Let me know if you have any questions below.