In a nutshell…
Your DNS host is the service that is authoritative for hosting your DNS records. A domain registrar is where you purchase domain names. There are DNS hosting providers that offer domain registration and vice versa, but the two services should not be confused.
Back to Basics
Let’s start with the bare bones: a domain registrar offers services that allow you to pick a domain name and register it to an IP address. This is the first step you take when you want to build a website. Your domain name, like www.dnsmadeeasy.com, is essentially the face of your IP address, 123.45.678.90.
DNS is the framework of the internet that connects a user who types in a domain name to their desired site. Computers can’t communicate using domain names, so instead they find each other through the use of IP addresses.
This is actually a really long process, but we’ve made it simple….Check out the DNS Explained video.
So What’s a Registrar?
Now, when you register a domain name you have to go through a DNS registrar. These companies often deal directly with the registry operators who control the master list of all domain names. These registries are managed by IANA (International Assigned Numbers Authority) which is a department of ICANN, a nonprofit organizations that runs the root zone management in the Domain Name System.
Did you know?
Whenever you run a “whois” commain, or an online interface to the whois data, you’re actually querying the domain name registry.
Most times, you won’t actually deal with a DNS registrar directly. Most people purchase their domain name through a Web Hosting Provider–we’ll talk more about them in a minute. These companies do all the work for you and register your domain through the registries on your behalf.
Well Then What’s a DNS Host?
Once you’ve purchased your domain name, you have to tell it which domain name servers will be authoritative for that domain. A DNS hosting provider hosts these servers, which authoritatively respond for your domain. Sometimes domain registrars also offer DNS hosting, however the two services should never be confused.
So What Do They Do Differently?
Before we go deeper into what a DNS host does, we need to clear up the different kings of companies that offer DNS hosting.
- Domain name registers that offer DNS hosting as an additional service
- Web hosting providers
- Dedicated DNS hosting companies (that’s all they do)
Too often people resort to using their web host’s DNS services because they’re offered as an add-on or included with the web hosting services. This tends to confuse most people, because they end up thinking the two are one in the same.
In a nutshell, web hosting is essentially the space where your website files are stored. While DNS hosting is what connects users to the site and keeps the domain online.
Here’s the Big Picture
When you’re deciding how you want to host your DNS, you need to be sure you understand the differences between the different kinds of hosts. Your decision could either keep your site online 100% of the time at a low cost, or knock you offline and cost you thousands in maintenance and cleanup. DNS is the end-all-be-all of your site’s web presence. Without it, no one would be able to access your content.
Dedicated DNS hosting providers tend to have faster and more reliable infrastructure, designed from the ground-up for hosting DNS query traffic and nothing else.
Also published on Medium.