Difference Between Domain and Server (all you need to know)
Some technical terms like a domain name or a server are closely related but they are not the same. Let’s discuss some differences and some unique characteristics a domain name and a server has:
|It is like the address of a specific house||It is the house itself!|
|Human readable form of an IP address||A machine that stores a website or other kind of data and you can find it by IP address|
|You can buy it even without a website||A server can also refer to the software that is installed on physical servers (ex. Apache)|
|It can be used for creating professional emails||More powerful than usual computers and it can be open for days without interruption|
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Simple Explanation of a Domain
A domain name is the easy human-readable form of an IP address (220.127.116.11). We used this form on the web because as people we memorize better specific words than a long number. A domain name is a unique identifier and no one is allowed to use the same one.
Machines understand numbers such as IP addresses and not words as we do. Here comes the connection between a domain name and a server. A domain name points to a specific IP address where a website is located. Behind this IP address, there is a physical machine which is called a server (a specialized type of computer).
**Youtube video below-Domain Name: What is it/Example/How Does it Work/Cost/Where to Buy
Simple Explanation of a Server
A server refers to a physical machine that stores websites or other formats of data or refers to the software installed on a physical machine (like Apache). A website is a collection of files (like text with the code, images, videos, etc) so all these details need to be stored somewhere. The server plays that role, it stores this data but it also transfers the data if another computer asks that (the browser of your computer!).
So, in that machine, you need to install a type of software that helps with the transmission of this data. Web server software plays that role and contributes to the communication between the server (physical machine) with your computer or any kind of device that has a browser (like google chrome).
*Check the wiki article for Apache
You can see also that interesting youtube video to find out how servers actually look like. Big companies like Google have rooms with these machines so they can store all the data they receive from the users and also handle the enormous web traffic they receive every day.
Real Example of Server and a Domain
I own the domain buycompanyname.com and in my domain settings, I changed the nameservers to ns1.hostinger.com, ns2.hostinger.com. Hostinger is my hosting company so with that change what I indicate is that they are responsible for where my domain points to.
A name server is a specialized type of server which is responsible for recording a big list of domain names and what is their associated IP (they don’t store the site itself). In my case, if a browser asks for my website and after a long journey (which is based on the DNS system) the nameservers will point them to a specific IP. As we discussed that IP represents actually a physical machine which is called server. This server stores all my website data and it returns a full website back to the browser.
If I would like to change the hosting provider then after I transfer all my files to their server, I am updating my nameservers’ settings to something like that: ns1.xyzcompany.com , ns2.xyzcompany.com .
Domain Name Servers
Domain Name servers are the nameservers that are used in all the spectrum of the DNS system so we can see a web page from the moment we type it on our browser or visit it via search engines until we actually can interact with the website.
Ηere are the different types of DNS servers:
1.)The recursive resolver (usually an ISP server)
A resolver server is the first machine that your computer will reach to find out the IP address related to a specific domain. This kind of server usually belongs to your internet services provider (ISP). The resolver server will first check its cache to find out if this information is already in its system.
If it doesn’t find that detail then it will carry your request to other servers so it can find out the answer and return it to your computer (your browser actually).
2.)The Root server
The root servers are the most important part of the DNS system (the system in place that translates domains to IP). Reputable organizations own some of them like the US Department of Defense. There are 13 sets of them around the world. Of course, there are not only 13 servers but hundreds of machines.
All the recursive resolvers contain a file that has the names and IP addresses of those 13 sets. Since it is their first place that they will ask for an IP related to a domain. You can see here which exactly organizations own some the root servers: iana.org/domains/root/servers
3.)The TLD server
A TLD server is responsible for carrying the information related to a specific TLD (or domain extension) such as .com, .net or .org. Its main job is to point to the authoritative nameserver for the domains that share a common domain extension.
4.)The authoritative nameserver
We already mentioned that kind of nameserver earlier. If you remember my example I have added those details in my domain settings: ns1.hostinger.com, ns2.hostinger.com . So a TLD server will point to those nameservers that they will know exactly what is the IP behind the domain buycompanyname.com.
The authoritative nameserver will pass the detail to the resolver and finally, the information will go the browser. The browser and server will establish a connection between them so we can see the website in our pc.
The last explanations might seem confusing but the next youtube video explains very well how the DNS system works and how the servers we described play their role. Don’t forget to share the post on social media if it was helpful and check other useful posts such as:
Domain Name vs Email vs IP Address
Web Page vs Website vs Home Page