349 – Nameservers and DNS Record Types
- WordPress.com Business includes themes and plugins
- Jetpack 5.2
- Want to Work for a Rapper? Start a blog
Is there a plugin for that?
With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.
For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.
Gravity Forms Locator is a plugin solves that problem by adding a “Form Locations” page within the Gravity Forms menu so that all forms that have been added to pages or posts are visible on one screen.
Nameservers and DNS Record Types
Nameservers are part of DNS, which stands for “Domain Name System.” The DNS is a database that works like a phone book for computers: it converts a domain name, such as ‘yourwebsiteengineer.com,’ to a machine-readable IP address, such as 220.127.116.11.
In a nutshell, a Nameserver is any server that has DNS software installed on it. But usually, it refers to a server owned by a web host that is specifically used to manage the domain names associated with their web hosting customers.
Here are the most common DNS record types used for your domain.
- A – links a domain or subdomain to an IP address.
- NS – identifies the DNS servers responsible for a zone.
- MX – specifies email servers to route emails.
- TXT – stores text-based data and accesses it when needed.
- SPF – permits specific servers to use its domain name for email.
You can check what values each of these records have after propagation at What’s My DNS
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Full TranscriptBusiness Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.
On today’s episode, we are going to talk about name servers and DNS records, right here on Your Website Engineer podcast, episode No. 349.
Hello everybody, welcome back to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast, my name is Dustin Hartzler and I’m excited to be here with you this week and to continue our discussion upon last week when we talked about domain names. There’s that technical jargon of domain names, we’re going to now kind of get a little bit broader and we’re going to talk about names servers and DNS records and how all these pieces of the puzzle allow somebody to type in a web address like yourwebsiteengineer.com and actually arrive at your website, wherever that’s located in the world.
But first, I’ve got three announcements that I want to share and one plug-in. So, let’s go ahead and dive right in. The first big piece of news this week comes from wordpress.com and it is that wordpress.com business users now have support for plugins and third-party themes. And what that means is, if you upgrade to the business plan – which runs $299.00 per year – you now can have the power of a wordpress.com site but you also have the ability to add plugins in your own custom theme.
It is going to be, I think a game changer when it comes to picking hosting providers, it’s going to probably make things a little bit more muddled when people are talking about wordpress.com because wordpress.com used to be – oh you can only run what’s on wordpress.com, you had to pick one of their themes you can’t add any plugins, you all could only do this on a self-hosted website.
Well now, we’re turning the tables at wordpress.com and now they’re saying that if you have a business plan, which again runs about $300.00 per year, so it’s kinda the in between pricing but you also get the Happiness Engineers, the live chat, you get opportunities to have a one-on-one business concierge, help set your site up when you first get started, and so, it’s really big news, it’s been a project that we’ve been working on in Automatic for a really long time, we’re finally allowed to talk about it and make it public.
And I’m working on building a website that I’ll probably highlight maybe next week or the week after, I’m trying to get it ready for Podcast Movement but I wanna essentially duplicate all of the things that are happening on yourwebsiteengineer.com, I’m gonna build it on wordpress.com and show that you can basically do everything that I’m doing on my site with Flywheel, you can do it with wordpress.com and the cost structure is going to be very, very, very close to the same. I’m paying $30.00 per month at Flywheel and 300 divided by 12 is $25.00 per month so it’s going to be very similar, the speeds are gonna be very close together.
And one other thing that you have to remember is you won’t have to run any backup software, you won’t have to run Akismet, or any of those other plugins when you’re running Wordpress.com Business because all of that stuff is just built into the wordpress.com ecosphere. So, I’ll be sharing more information on this in the coming weeks, I do have a link in the show notes for the article that came out on the wordpress.com blog this week and so if you’re interested go ahead and check that out and sign-up for an account if you want to forget about updating plugins and making sure Core is updated and whatnot, with Wordpress.com Business that will all be taken care of for you, so that’s the first piece of news.
The second, minor piece of news coming from Automatic as well is Jetpack 5.2.1 has been released and that’s basically a bug release fixing some widget bugs. So, there have been a handful of small, little things that have been updated so go ahead and update your sites to Jetpack 5.2.1.
And then, the last piece of news, this came from Automatic as well, and the article is titled Want to Get Hired by your Favorite Rapper? Build a Website. And this basically is an article that kind of, the scenario happened back in March of 2017 but Chance the Rapper was looking for an intern and instead of submitting a traditional resume, a recent college graduate created something better; he created website and it actually led to him becoming an intern for Chance the Rapper and he got to go on tour with him, it was just kind of a neat article and the guy set up a free wordpress.com site to get everything set up and running. So, that’s just another neat article that I wanted to share with you this week happening in the WordPress space.
Alright, moving on to the “is there a plugin for that”, there are more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository and this one is a new one that I’ve never heard of and this one has just been released recently and it is called Gravity Forms Locator and this is a plugin that solves a big hole in the design of Gravity Forms in its backend interface and the current problem is there’s no way to know which post or page a particular form is on. So, this plugin basically solves that problem by adding a forms location page within the Gravity Forms menu so that all forms that have been added to posts or pages are visible on one screen. You can look at the page and you can click on links that will take you directly to either the form or directly to the page or the editor version of the page.
So, a pretty neat plugin, it’s a brand new one like I said and it is something to check out if you’re always kind of scratching your head trying to figure out where’s that form and just trying to keep everything organized and managed. If want to try to remove a form and you don’t know if it’s on a page, this plugin could definitely help, it’s called Gravity Forms Locator, you can find out more in the show notes for episode No. 349 or just do a quick search for Google Form Locator on the WordPress repository.
Before we get into the main part of the show, I just want to once again highlight the fact that I’ve started a weekly newsletter, and you can find out more just by clicking on any of the sign-up buttons on yourwebsiteengineer.com and eventually at yourwebsiteengineer.com/newsletter and it’s just basically a tip, a small tidbit, or a fact about WordPress that comes your inbox every Friday. I’m just trying to spread the knowledge just a little bit more. Some of these things that I’m picking up every single day within WooCommerce Support, it’s just like “Wow, I didn’t know that”, and “oh, I didn’t know that” and I can share these tips and just allow you to become more efficient and use WordPress much quicker and much easier.
So, been getting a handful of e-mails back saying the tip this past week has been great and is very useful. And the content is just simple, it’s useful, and it’s just something that they’re looking forward to on the weekly basis. So, go on over to yourwebsiteengineer.com and sign-up on one of the forms that say, “register now” or “sign-up” or “get my e-book”, one of those forms will get you on the list and you can start receiving those starting this Friday.
Okay, moving on to the meat of the show, we’re gonna talk about nameservers and DNS records. And they kind of go hand-in-hand in both pieces of the puzzle make it so when you type in yourwebsiteengineer.com you actually see my site, it’s located on a server somewhere in the world where Flywheel has got my website hosted. That’s all of the pieces of the puzzle that makes that work. So, let’s go ahead, we’re first gonna talk about nameservers and then we’re gonna talk about DNS record types and what each record type actually does. So, let’s look at a nameserver.
So, every website in existence has an IP address, which is how computers look them up. But, to make things easier, like I said last week for us humans we need to get to websites with domain names. That makes it much easier than remembering 18.104.22.168 so that makes it much, much easier than that. So nameservers are part of this thing called domain name systems or abbreviated most times as DNS. And the DNS is a database that works like a phonebook for computers, it converts a domain name, like yourwebsiteengineer.com to a machine-readable IP address such as, like I said 10.0.2.4. or whatever.
The DNS is maintained by several different organizations. One is the IANA: Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, and the other is ICANN: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. So, whenever you type a domain in your browser, the nameservers provides the IP address for your domain to your browser. So, if the DNS doesn’t exist, you have to memorize the string of numbers to look at every website. So, in a nutshell: a nameserver is a server that has the DNS software installed on it. But, usually nameserver refers to the server owned by a webhost that specifically used to manage domain names associated with their web hosting company.
So, think about, a lot of times you may buy a domain at hover.com and you’re hosting at Bluehost and it says please point your domain name or please point your nameservers to NS1.bluehost.com and NS2.bluehost.com. Let’s look at a quick example for, let’s say, example.com as our domain name. So, we go to a web browser, we type example.com into the browser. The browser uses the DNS to lookup the servers for example.com and then you’ll see that they’re NS1.bluehost.com and NS2.bluehost.com, those are retrieved.
Then, the browser goes to those nameservers to look up the IP address for example.com and then your browser gets the response like 22.214.171.124. And then your browser sends the request to 126.96.36.199 to the specific page that you’re trying to reach and then the webserver hosting the website sends that requested page to the browser.
So, this seven steps, every time that you go to a domain or go to a new page and it goes ridiculously quick, you never think that there’s all these pieces to the puzzle working behind the scenes when you navigate to yourwebsiteengineer.com and you start browsing on a web page. So, the whole process can take less than a second so the majority of your visitors will never be aware of the nameservers you use for your site unless something goes wrong.
The tricky part about nameservers is, if you make a change to your webservers, it can take up to 48 hours to go into effect. Even though it normally takes, 4 to 8 hours in most cases. The delayed is called DNS propagation and it exists because it takes time for each DNS server to update the other servers around the world about the change. I’ll put a link in the show notes for a place where I like to check these A records or things that we’re going to talk about it, the actual text records of the DNS servers and it just gives you a highlight of where in different parts of the world is registering what IP address the domain name is pointing to.
This is the trickiest part about building a website on a local machine or building it somewhere and then trying to move a domain or point it somewhere else is this domain name propagation which could allow people to see an old version of your website or a broken version of your website or just a version that isn’t ideal for public consumption. There’s also a way to register your own nameservers, I’m not getting into that today.
So, there are two places where you can set up these DNS records. You can either do it on your domain registrar, so for example, hover.com, they have a DNS database where you can list all of these IP addresses or you can do it on your hosting account by pointing your domain to specific nameservers. So, those are the two ways to set it up. So, you can either set them up directly from your domain registrar or you have to use nameservers and point them to Bluehost or Flywheel or GoDaddy and then set up your DNS settings on those particular sites.
Now that we know where we’re going to keep our DNS databases, either on our domain registrar or our hosting company, now it’s a matter of kind of filling it in and trying to figure out what type of information we need there. And, this is going to be more pertinent if you keep the DNS records on your domain, at your domain registrar because each of these are going to have to be pointed to the right place. If you point them to your name server, so if you point them to Bluehost, then for the most part they’re going to fill out the A records and the MX records and some of the key pieces that you need.
So, this is more for if your DNS setting database is handled at your domain registrar. You’re going to need to set up A records, that’s the first one. It’s the most basic type of DNS records and they’re used to point a domain or a subdomain to an IP address. You can assign a value, I guess you can only assign a value that’s an IP address. You can’t point it to anything else; it has to be strictly an IP address. I’ll put some examples in the show notes of what this actually looks like, but what this means is you can have a wildcard, if somebody types 12345.yourwebsiteengineer.com, I could direct them to a specific place, maybe I had a landing page at a specific IP address that was a 404 page.
There is something called – it’s the @ symbol, and that basically is your regular domain. That’s where yourwebsiteengineer.com will go. Then you can also do subdomains as a record as well. Again, I’ll put links in the show notes for these so you can see them and see what they look like. A CNAME record is another commonly used type of DNS records and they’re used to point a domain or subdomain to another host name. The big difference between a CNAME and an A record, they’re essentially the same, but with a CNAME you can point things to an actual existing domain. So, if I wanted to take store.yourwebsiteengineer.com and point it to shopify.yourwebsiteengineer.com I could do that with a CNAME.
Now, I’m obviously never going to do that but that’s something that a CNAME works like. It just makes it that much easier for you to kind of set up your own redirects and create subdomains within your website but you don’t have to set it to an IP address you can just reroute it to the right place.
MX records are the mail exchanger records that will help you route your e-mail according to the domain owner’s preference. So, the MX records specifies which servers to attempt to deliver mail to when a mail request is made to that domain. So, they differ from A records and CNAMEs in a way that they also require a priority value and the priority number is to use to indicate servers listed in the MX records that it should attempt first. And so, this one you may have seen a lot with google apps, if you have google apps set up, they actually have five different priorities that you can sent up so that you make sure your mail messages are always sent.
And, that works out really well if you have your website hosted in one place and your mail hosted in another place, then if your website goes down for some reason you’re still gonna get your mail; and if your mail breaks your website’s still gonna work. So, things are in two separate locations which is really helpful when it comes to things that may break.
The next one is called a TXT record, a T-X-T record and this is to use to store text based information that can be grabbed when necessary. This is primarily used for Google and to verify Google analytics that you have access to the domain. It gives you a specific TXT value, it’s usually 100 characters or 150 characters, and you add it to a TXT value and then you go to google.com and then you – inside of web developer tools, you can click on a link and that link will verify that you have access to the domain you can set up and you can configure the DNS for that specific domain. And that’s what those are essentially for.
A more specific TXT record is one called SPF and that is commonly supplied to you by the mail provider that you’re working with and it basically will do that same type of thing, it will do that domain verification through that use of that TXT record to make sure you have access to that domain name.
So those are the main mass record types that you can set up and you can configure in your DNS database and most websites have one or two of these, they don’t have a lot of them set up unless you have a really complex site. I’m guessing the huge mega corporation websites that have got lots of subdomains and then gots lots of pieces of the puzzle moving probably have dozens if not hundreds of different DNS record types inside of their database. But, I say, for example, most of mine have one or two A records, they may have a CNAME, depending. Most of them have the MX records pointing to my google apps account and then I have a TXT record set up just for google analytics to work right.
And so, all of mine, I like to keep all of my DNS records hosted on hover just because they’re all in one place and then if I know I ever need to make a change for any of my domains I can always go there. And when they’re hosted there it makes it really easy to switch from hosting company to hosting company, if you’ve been listening to my show for quite a while – there’s a show probably a couple years ago that talks about the five different hosting platforms I’ve used for yourwebsiteengineer.com the website.
And so, I like to move my website to different hosts regularly, and if I keep all of my DNS records located with my domain, it’s very easy to update and then I don’t really have to worry about changing nameservers and then redoing all of the DNS setting because, for example, if I pointed my nameservers to flywheel.com to host my website with Flywheel, I could put in my CNAME, my MX records, my TXT records, all that stuff, and then when it comes time if I wanna move my website to Dreamhost, for example. If I want to move it there then I’d have to duplicate that whole database again into Dreamhost panel and then update my nameservers and then make sure, hopefully that none of those pieces of puzzle – none of my e-mail would break because of downtime based on an MX record.
But, since I keep them all with Hover, all of my DNS settings are with Hover, then when it’s time to update my website and point it to a different domain, I never have to change my MX records, I never have to change the TXT records, and I never have to update anything but that A record that points my website to the IP address for my new hosting platform.
So, that’s why I do it that way, that’s – I think saves me a little bit of time in the long run, granted you’re not moving websites that often, you’re not doing that shuffle around very often, hopefully. Hopefully, each of our websites are hosted with a company that we enjoy, we trust, and have setup a good relationship with. So, that’s the main content that I wanted to share with you today.
A little more technical jargon, we’re going to keep diving into this for the rest of the month. Just talking about interesting things that may or may not know a lot about because we don’t have to set them up very often, but just setting the expectation that if you ever have to have a conversation someday, I want you to be able to remember, okay, I want to – you want to know whether you want to point your nameservers to your hosting company or keep the DNS records with your domain registrar. So that’s the main reason we wanted to talk about that today. So, with that, I’m going to wrap up the show and we’ll talk to you next week. Take care and we’ll talk again soon, buh-bye.