how to point domain

How To Point a Domain To a Hosting Provider

Did you buy (register) a domain name at a registry that is a different company than your hosting provider? Well, don’t worry most people do! But when you want to start a blog, or set up a website on your host’s servers, you first have to direct or point the domain (not transfer) to your host in order to propagate (settle) your domain on the hosting servers. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to point a domain to a hosting provider.

To point a domain to a hosting provider sounds complicated but, in fact, it is very simple and I’ll show you how to do it in a minute. But first, let’s touch up on some terminology, you’ll encounter in this article and you likely are not familiar with.

Please note: I have an affiliate association with the companies I mention in this post or in the video. Should you purchase through my links I will get a small compensation by these companies. I only recommend products that I use and the ones that I honestly believe will also give you the best service. All my domain names are registered with Netfirms. My primary web hosting provider is Hostgator.


What Is Name Server (Nameserver)

In order to point a domain to a hosting provider you will come across the terms “Name Server or NameServers”. If you don’t know what name servers they are, pointing your domain name could become somewhat confusing.

Simply, name servers (nameservers) are servers which hold the information that tells the Internet where to find your web site. It is a directory of domain names that match certain IP addresses. In the computer world the IP address is basically the domain’s location on the Internet.

When you register your domain name, the registrar assigns it 2 name servers (sometimes more), a primary one and a secondary one. At least two are assigned, to ensure that the service (or eventually visibility of your site) is not interrupted when one name server fails. You will find the nameserver in your domain’s control panel of your registry account.

You would also have received an email with the name server information from your web host when you set up your web hosting account.

In general nameserver designations look as follows:

  1. – this is primary name server
  2. – this is secondary name server

Both, the registry’s and the hosting provider’s name servers look similar. Sometimes the value 1 and 2 may be replaced by a larger value such as ns2964 and ns2965, respectively.

  1. – this is primary name server
  2. – this is secondary name server

In general, the smaller value is the name of the primary name server and the larger value is the name of the secondary name server.

How to Point a Domain To Your Hosting Provider

I have a hosting account set up at Hostgator and my domain registry is at Netfirms. I will use these service providers as an example. Although a small detail may vary from provider to provider, the principle and the steps you need to take are very much the same.

Step 1. Check you registration email from both of your service providers. You will need:

  1. Your domain account login. When you registered (bought) your domain name you would have received login information to your domain account.
  2. Name server (nameserver) designation from your web host. When you registered an account at your preferred hosting provider, in addition to your account login information you would have also received the names of the nameservers.

For example, Netfirms, my preferred domain name registrar, calls their name servers as:

  1. Nameserver 1 (Primary nameserver)
  2. Nameserver 2

Hostgator, a hosting company that I use, refers to their name servers as:

  1. Nameserver 1 (Primary name server)
  2. Nameserver 2

For security reasons I am using fictitious Hostgator nameserver designation. But they will always have “ns” followed by 4 numbers. Nameserver 1 will be the lower number and nameserver 2 will be the higher number.

Step 2. Log into the account where you purchased your domain name.

Step 3. Open your domain files. In your account open the files typically labeled as Domain Central, Domain Manager, My Domains, etc. Different companies may have a different designations and layout, but the principle is the same.

Step 4. Select the domain for which you want to change the name servers. Usually a window will expand and you will see different information tabs.

Step 5. In the tabs, locate Nameservers. The image is an example from Netfirms. Yours will be very similar. The key is that you want to locate Nameservers.

Image 1. Locating Nameservers

Netfirms name server overview
When you in your domain’s dashboard click Nameserver tab or a link to expand the name server dashboard.

Image 2. Expanded Nameservers Dashboard

netfirms nameservers

Step 6. Switch nameservers. Add your hosting provider’s name servers

After the nameserver tab opened all I needed to do was to click the “Use different name servers” button, enter the nameservers 1 and 2 of my hosting provider, click on save button and that was it. The pointing began.

The process of pointing a domain to a host does not happen instantly. It depends on many factors and it may take up to 72 hours (the worst possible scenario, usually it is significantly less). Typically, for me it takes anywhere from 2 – 6 hours for my domains to propagate my web host.

But to be on the save side, when I have to, I point the domain name in the evening and by morning the propagation has always been completed.

In rare cases, it is really complex process to access your domain files (I suggest you change the registrar). If you cannot figure out how to access your domain files or the name servers at your domain’s registrar, you will have to contact the company where you registered your domain name for help. But once you have access to the name servers it should be as simple as shown above.

There are a number of reasons why so many people buy web hosting and register domain names at different service providers. Some people do it for protection, others because their favorite hosting provider does not offer a registry service. Most internet marketers recommend that domain names and hosting should be on two independent accounts.

Given, that now you know how to point a domain to a hosting provider, and you see how easy it is to do, I highly recommend that you also keep your domain name independent of your web hosting account.

Next Tutorial: How To Set Up Email Forwarding

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