Here at Earthling, we build custom websites and applications that solve our partner’s business problems. Leading up to the launch of your project, some technical setup is required so that the published website allows the user to get from Point A (typing the domain into the browser bar) to Point B (the destination).
The sometimes-over-complicated process of setting up a URL can be confusing. In most cases, you bought your domain name, hooked it up to your website, and didn’t need to look back! The specifics of where and how all this occurred are usually faded by the halcyon veil of time.
We might not be able to recreate the steps with you, but we’re here to help you recall the events that led you to obtain a web address.
The Domain Registrar
If it sounds formal, that’s because it is. This is the keeper of your dot com; the entity where you got the funny domain you came up when out for dinner with friends. There are a lot of Domain Registrars out there, and they are all required to be accredited by ICANN in order to sell domains. Some US-based companies that might ring a bell are Network Solutions, GoDaddy, and NameCheap. This is where your Name Servers are controlled and this is especially important as we move onto the next bit.
About Name Servers
A Name Server (NS) is how your domain name knows where to go next in the chain. NS records can look like the following and they always come in groups of two, though, sometimes there are more:
ns61.domaincontrol.com ns62.domaincontrol.com ns1.giowm1195.siteground.biz ns2.giowm1195.siteground.biz lisa.ns.cloudflare.com bill.ns.cloudflare.com
These tell us where your DNS Zone is controlled.
Wait… what? What the heck is a DNS Zone?!
The DNS Zone is where the magic happens; it’s where your domain name’s A Record is translated into numbers so the Internet-enabled computer knows where to go for which purpose. It declares that daniscool.com should resolve to this host: 12.34.567.89 and shop.daniscool.com should resolve here: 98.765.4.321. The Zone takes lots of other instructions (like MX, CNAME, SPF, and TXT) but we’re sticking only with web addresses today, for brevity.
What about the Host?
The host is the server (i.e., a great big computer) where the files, images, and code live that make up your website. This is what the user sees when they type in your domain and each server has a unique IP address which we saw in the DNS Zone example above.
Why is this so complicated?!
It may not be, and it doesn’t have to be. You very well could have purchased your domain from GoDaddy and set up a site. In this case, GoDaddy is the Registrar, NS, Zone Controller, and the host.
I have a client whose Registrar is GoDaddy, the NS and Zone Controller is HostGator, and the host is SiteGround. We also have clients where the Registrar is NameCheap, the NS and Zone Controller is Cloudflare, and the host is HostGator. You can imagine how this can get complicated very quickly.
The good news here is that Earthling understands how all of this works, and all you need to do is remember your combination and we can help!