Once you've chosen your domain name and got it registered, what's your next step?
Your web host will give you the details you need to get your site up and running. This will include passwords to log into your website account, the paths to the directories where you need to upload your information, and most importantly the addresses of your domain name servers.
DNS servers are the link between your domain name (mydomain.com) and your IP address (a numbered address like 123.456.78.9. Every web server on the internet has a unique IP address.
If your website is hosted on a dedicated server, your IP address is unique to your website. Your website will respond whether someone types the domain name or the IP address into their browser.
Most websites are hosted on shared servers, however. What this means is that a single server hosts many websites, and each one shares the same IP address. If you enter the IP address of a shared server in your browser, it won't display your website.
DNS is the "translation" layer between domain names and IP addresses that allows multiple sites on one server.
Configuring Your Website On DNS
When you register your domain name, it will be pointing to the DNS servers for your chosen registrar. Until you have a account set up with a hosting service, your domain will usually point to an error page or an "under construction" page.
Keep in mind that there's no time limit between registering your domain and choosing a web host. Some people register domains and never actually get a website hosted on them.
If you've bought your domain with plans to use it, you'll need to sign up for an account with a web host and upload your website's files to their server.
The first step in making your website active is to change the DNS servers on file with your domain registrar to the ones that are given to you by your web host.
The DNS server information will look similar to this:
Primary Name Server: NS1.SOMEDOMAIN.COM (123.456.78.9) Secondary Name Server: NS2.SOMEDOMAIN.COM (123.456.7.89)
You'll get this information from your hosting company when you sign up for a hosting account. If you can't find this information, you'll need to contact your web host to get it. Otherwise your website won't be accessible from the internet.
Once you have this information from your host, you'll need to change the settings on file with your registrar to the new addresses. If your domain name was included with the purchase of your hosting, the web host will normally update this information for you automatically.
Once the DNS servers are registered it can take up to 48 hours for your site to be accessible across the internet. This is because of the way the DNS system works.
The domain names and IP addresses are stored in a database that is distributed through thousands of computers around the world. Each computer keeps a small part of the database cached and if they get a request for an unknown domain, they have to forward that request to another computer until the information is found.
This database gets updated on a constant basis on each of these computers, but it can take some time for your new website's information to spread throughout the world.