Frequently Asked Question

Domain Nameserver, Zones and Records
Last Updated 4 years ago

The process by which you get from a domain name to a website isn't complex but its often misunderstood by those not in the industry and this article aims to explain this relationship in basic terms.

The Domain

When you register a domain, for example then a registrar will keep the domain record which consists of the domain name, the registration date, renewal date, and a set of contact's such as owner, administrator, billing, technical and so on. The only slightly technical part of the domain registration is the name servers...

The Nameservers

When you register a domain name, one of the things you'll be asked for is the nameservers. Some domain registrars automatically set this to themselves and provide a 'control panel' type interface, but others do not and expect you to manager your own nameservers. Eitherway, the nameservers 'resolve' the domain name to the services it provides. As an example, you might have hosted by GEN on our farpoint hosting cluster. The address of the first server in the cluster is and let's assume that's where your site is hosted. In order to get from to we require a nameserver to make that resolution by holding the configuration in a zone...

The Zone

A nameserver is basically a database of records for a number of domain names. Each record is called a 'zone' and in the zone is configration information that is required to get from the domain name to an IP address (or some other data) that internet clients & servers require to work. A typical example would be the A record (A = Address), in our example is hosted at and that server is currenly at So we need to get from to so your browser knows which server to connect to and the zone provides the answer.

Putting it all together

So in your browser you type, and the browser has to first figure out the IP address that it needs to connect to. To do this it asks the nearest DNS server to provide the A (address) record for That nearest DNS server will first lookup the domain and ask the registrar which nameserver provides answeres for Let's assume your hosting is with GEN so the registrar will return, which are our primary and backup nameservers.

Next the nearest DNS server has to ask the nameserver what address it needs for and in this case the question is actually; What is the www Address record for, and if you hosted the domain at GEN then would reply with "", and that's all your browser needs to connect to the server and retrieve the website.

Let's work the example using some tools to get real world values...

So, firstly we need to know the nameservers for, to do that we use the whois command:

whois and we receive the response:

Name Server: NS65.WORLDNIC.COM
Name Server: NS66.WORLDNIC.COM

Great! Now we need to ask the first nameserver for the IP address for and to do this we use the DIG command with this syntax

dig -t A

This asks for the A record for from the nameserver and we get the following response:

; A


As we can see our question was, what is the A record (address) for and the answer given is which is exactly what we needed.

Now we can connect to and retrieve the website hosted at that address. We can test this further using the CURL command

curl --verbose --header "host:"

And we get the following answer:

* Trying
* Connected to ( port 80 (#0)
> GET / HTTP/1.1
> host:
> User-Agent: curl/7.51.0
> Accept: */*

What we see here is that the server hosting is attempting to redirect us to and that's not uncommon, but we don't need to test this further, we have our valid response from the server to our request so we know its all working.

We hope this helps explain the relationship between domain name, nameserver, zone and hosting server, but if not then please don't hesitate to contact us.

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