Who’s Hosting Your DNS?

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Too often I get clients that have no idea who hosts their DNS, or they will migrate from a company, leave their DNS, and have no idea what they’re getting charged for. You need to know who hosts your DNS.

Registrars

The whole DNS system starts with a registrar. This is the place you bought your domain, the place that still charges you roughly $10 year. This will likely be GoDaddy, Network Solutions, NameCheap, or any one of the tons of registrars that are out there. The registrar’s job is basically to reserve the domain name for you, make sure no one else can have your domain name, annoy you about renewing your domains, and most importantly, they tell the world where your name servers are.

In Linux, you can use the whois command to look it up, or you can find a site offering the whois service. You can also find out what your name servers are this way, as well.

Name Servers

This is where your DNS is hosted. Typically you’ll have two or more name servers, because most registrars require that you have at least two. Some people just have two different names for the same server, but it’s a lot safer to double it up. These are almost always named something like nsX.example.com where X is a number.

Name servers host the individual DNS records for your domain. They tell people where your website is hosted, what the www should do, any subdomains you might have, where to send mail, and a couple of other things. This is typically  service you will be paying someone for.

Most of the time, you can host your DNS through either your registrar or your web host, so it’s generally a service that’s combined with another service.

Finding Where Your Site is Hosted

This is the fun part. Most of the time, you can tell who someone is using for hosting just by looking at their IP. In Linux, you can use the dig command, in Windows, you can use nslookup. You’re looking for the A record for the domain.

When you find the A record, you need to figure out which Regional Internet Registry controls their area of the world. There’s only five though, so it’s not too hard. Here’s the list:

  • ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers, which controls the US and Canada)
  • LACNIC (Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre)
  • RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre, which controls Europe, Russia, and the Middle East)
  • AfriNIC (African Network Information Centre)
  • APNIC (Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre, which controls the rest of Asia, Australia and the Pacific)

I typically go to the ARIN because if it’s not them, they’ll usually tell you who does have it.