Small business owners occasionally have to wade into the murky waters of domain registration and management (not to mention nameservers and advanced dns). It can be tricky to figure out what points where, and how to make changes so that everything points where it should. Here’s an overview of how your domain is managed, the difference between Nameservers and Advanced DNS and where to head when its time to make a change.
The registrar is the place where you register a new domain – godaddy.com, networksolutions.com, register.com and name.com (my preference) are examples of registrars. The hosting provider is where your actual web files sit on a server. These web files might include HTML, images and a database.
Your domain records will always have a set of two or three Nameservers listed. Nameservers are the whole ball of wax – you are saying that for anything that has to do with the domain, go where the Nameservers are. When you first register a domain, the Nameservers point towards the registrar.
Whoever controls the Nameservers for your domain also controls the DNS (which stands for Domain Name System). Managing the DNS allows you to more finely control your domain. For example, you may want one company to host all of your email, another company to host your website and Google Apps to host your group calendars. You use Advanced DNS to point A records, CNAME records and MX records to different locations to accomplish these various setups.
When you build your website, the hosting provider generally says one of two things: point your Nameservers to us, or point an A record to us. If the hosting provider says point your Nameservers to us, then they are responsible for managing the DNS, which would mean that either you have access to make Advanced DNS changes through an admin they provide or you have to request DNS changes from them. If the hosting provider says point an A record at us, it means they are only responsible for the web hosting and FTP access to your web files.
The most important thing to remember is that if you have to make a DNS change (such as a request to point an A record to a new location), you have to make that change with the company that is hosting the Nameservers. It is most likely one of two places: the registrar, where you first registered your domain, or the hosting provider that hosts your website.