Domain Name Registration and DNS Hosting Services

 

Applies to: Office 365 for professionals and small businesses, Office 365 for enterprises, Live@edu

Topic Last Modified: 2011-11-23

Before you enroll your organization, you need to know some basic information about DNS, domain registrars, and DNS hosting services.

Here's a quick explanation of DNS, the difference between domain registrars and domain hosting services, and how to find the domain registrar or DNS hosting service for your domain if you don't already know.

DNS (Domain Name System)

DNS is responsible for translating friendly domain names, such as www.microsoft.com, to IP addresses, such as 192.168.255.255. These IP addresses are required to access resources on the Internet.

Domain information is stored in DNS servers on the Internet. These DNS servers are used to look up the resource records that are defined for a domain. The resource records then point to an IP address so that the resources, such Web servers or messaging servers, can be accessed.

Before you can use your domain name on the Internet, you have to engage with two separate entities that manage domain information: a domain registrar and a DNS hosting service. Frequently, the domain registrar is also the DNS hosting service. However, this isn't always true.

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Domain registrars

A domain registrar is a company that registers domain names. Everyone, from an individual to an international corporation, must use a domain registrar to register their domain name before they can use it on the Internet. All domain registrars must be certified by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). When you search for an available domain name at a particular domain registrar, you are really searching for the availability of that domain name from all the domain registrars in the world.

Typically, domains are registered in yearly increments. Domain registrations can be transferred from one domain registrar to another. If the domain registration isn't renewed, the domain name becomes publicly available.

The domain registrar is responsible for maintaining the following information about the domain:

  • The registration status of the domain name: Is it registered?
  • Contact information for the person or organization that is responsible for the domain name.
  • Details about the domain registration, such as when the domain registration expires.
  • The names of at least two DNS servers that are responsible for the DNS records that are associated with the domain. These DNS servers are called the authoritative name servers. Even though the domain registrar is responsible for identifying the authoritative name servers for a domain, the domain registrar isn't responsible for hosting the DNS records for the domain.
Find the domain registrar for a registered domain

  1. Go to the InterNIC Web site at http://www.internic.com.
  2. Click Whois. In the Whois field, type your domain name, such as contoso.com.
  3. Select Domain, and then click Submit.
  4. The Whois Search Results page opens. In the results for your domain name, look for the company name in the Registrar field.

If the Whois Search Results page returns no results for the domain name, the domain name isn't registered, or the InterNIC Whois search can't retrieve information for that particular top-level domain. The InterNIC Whois page clearly states the top-level domains that it knows about. To find domain registrar information about other top-level domains, such as domains ending in .us or other country-code top-level domains, go to Uwhois.com at http://www.uwhois.com.

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DNS hosting services

The DNS hosting service is the company that owns the DNS servers that contain the DNS records for a domain. Some domain registrars provide DNS hosting services as part of their domain registration; other domain registrars don't provide DNS hosting services. Unlike domain names that must be registered with accredited domain registrars, any individual or company with a registered domain name and public IP addresses can create a public DNS server and host the DNS records for any number of domains. When the DNS records for a domain are hosted by a DNS hosting service, you and the rest of the Internet can actually use the domain.

Some DNS hosting companies let you create and modify the DNS records for your domain. Other DNS hosting companies don't let you directly modify the DNS records for your domain. Also, not all DNS hosting services support all kinds of DNS records. For example, some DNS hosting services don't support TXT records or SRV records.

A comparison of DNS hosting services

The following table describes the DNS hosting services of some popular domain registrars.

 

Domain registrar DNS hosting services? Owner can modify DNS records? Supported DNS record types related to the cloud-based service

1&1

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX

CentralNic

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX
  • TXT

eNom Central

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX
  • TXT
  • SRV

Go Daddy.com

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX
  • TXT
  • SRV

MelbourneIT

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX
  • TXT

Network Solutions

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX
  • TXT
  • SRV

Note   SRV records are supported, but you must select values from a pre-defined list.

Register.com

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX
  • TXT
  • SRV

Yahoo!

Yes

Yes

  • CNAME
  • MX

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Find the DNS hosting service for a registered domain

  1. Go to the InterNIC Web site at http://www.internic.com.
  2. Click Whois. In the Whois field, type your domain name, such as contoso.com.
  3. Select Domain, and then click Submit.
  4. The Whois Search Results page opens. In the results for your domain name, look for the value in the Name Server fields. The name servers that are listed are the authoritative name servers for your domain. For example, the authoritative name servers for the domain "fabrikam.com" may be "ns1.contoso.com" and "ns2.contoso.com". The name servers are listed in the order of priority.
  5. Copy and paste the value of the first Name Server field into the Search again field at the top of the page.
  6. Select Nameserver, and then click Submit. The owner of the name server is displayed in the Registrar field.

To find DNS hosting service information for other domains, such as domains ending in .us or other country-code top-level domains, see http://www.uwhois.com.

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