The Complete Guide to NS Hosting and DNS Configuration

Unchain your DNS! Learn how NS hosting unlocks a world of custom configurations, enhanced reliability, and flexibility for your domain’s infrastructure.

Tired of being stuck on your registrar or web host’s restrictive default DNS settings? Want to access advanced DNS features to optimize performance and reliability?

It’s time to break free with NS hosting!

Decoupling your DNS management from the rest of your hosting stack provides immense benefits for certain use cases. But it also comes with some critical considerations.

What is NS Hosting and How Does it Work?

Welcome to the wild world of NS hosting! By the end of this section, you’ll have a solid understanding of what exactly NS hosting is, how it works under the hood, and how it differs from regular web hosting.
First things first – NS stands for “name server”. NS records are a key part of the domain name system (DNS) that makes the internet function.

Defining name servers (NS records)

When you register a domain name, it is assigned name servers, designated by NS records, that tell the world where to look to find information about that domain. The NS records point to the DNS servers that store the DNS configuration for the domain.

For example, the NS records for might look like this:

This means the DNS records for are stored on the nameservers and

These servers contain A records defining the IP addresses for, MX records for routing email, and more. NS records are like a compass, pointing your domain to the DNS servers that actually map the domain to web and email services.

How DNS resolution works with NS records

When someone types your domain name into a web browser, here is what happens behind the scenes:

  1. The browser first checks the NS records for your domain at the registry. This reveals the name servers that host your DNS configuration.
  2. The browser contacts one of these name servers and requests the A record for your domain, which contains the IP address.
  3. The name server returns the IP address pointed to by the A record.
  4. The browser can now load the website from the proper IP.

The same process applies for email and other services – the NS records point to the name servers that contain the MX and other records. NS hosting provides control over your NS records and name servers.

Differences between NS hosting and regular web hosting

With regular shared hosting, your NS records normally point to your hosting provider’s DNS servers. This means they take care of all the DNS management and configuration behind the scenes.

With NS hosting, also called external DNS hosting, you point your NS records to a third-party DNS provider. This gives you direct control to configure your DNS settings however you want.

The key differences:

  • Control over DNS – With NS hosting, you manage your own DNS settings rather than relying on a web host. This provides more flexibility and customization.
  • Separation of DNS and web hosting – Your name servers and web host servers are separate. This improves redundancy and stability.
  • Flexibility in web hosting – You aren’t locked to using your DNS provider’s servers for web hosting. You can easily switch web hosts without affecting DNS.
  • Access to advanced features – External DNS services offer powerful features like geo-balancing that integrated DNS often lacks.

The separation of concerns between DNS and web hosting is the core of NS hosting. It provides domain owners more control, flexibility, and reliability. Configuring NS hosting does require some extra work, but offers benefits for many use cases.

Benefits and Use Cases of NS Hosting

NS hosting opens up a world of possibilities by giving you direct control over your DNS settings and configuration. The separation of DNS management from web hosting has a number of advantages.

Allows use of external DNS provider

With NS hosting, you can utilize a specialized third-party DNS provider rather than being limited to your web host’s built-in DNS servers. These services are dedicated solely to fast and reliable DNS, allowing them to offer enhanced performance, security, and features.

Popular external DNS providers include:

  • Cloudflare
  • Amazon Route 53
  • GoDaddy Managed DNS
  • DNSMadeEasy
  • Netlify

By pointing your NS records to one of these providers, you delegate your DNS configuration to their infrastructure and tools. Their global DNS networks offer faster worldwide domain resolution and DDoS protection.

Many external DNS providers have web dashboards and APIs that make it easy to implement advanced configurations like geo- balancing across continents or failover between multiple IP addresses.

Enables custom DNS settings and features

When using your web host’s default nameservers, you are normally limited to basic DNS settings via their control panel. NS hosting unlocks powerful configuration options by exposing direct access to edit DNS records.

With your own nameservers, you can customize settings like:

  • Priority or weighted routing for load balancing
  • Multiple A records to improve uptime
  • CAA records to authorize certificate authorities
  • Round robin IP entries for distributing traffic
  • URL redirects and aliases
  • Subdomain delineation and delegation
  • Internationalized domain names (IDN)

Full DNS control allows implementing important security features like Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) to authenticate DNS data.

Improves reliability with redundant NS

Pointing a domain to just a single nameserver represents a single point of failure. If that server goes down, the domain essentially becomes unreachable.

NS hosting enables configuring multiple redundant nameservers to improve reliability. DNS requests can be answered even if one NS becomes unavailable.

A common setup is primary and secondary nameservers spread across different data centers, often even different providers. So if the primary NS has an outage, the secondary can handle resolution requests.

Multiple nameservers also distribute load more efficiently. DNS queries are shared between the NS pool rather than bombarding a single server.

Facilitates DNS changes when switching web hosts

Changing web hosting providers normally involves updating your domain’s nameserver records to point to the new host’s DNS servers. This assumes that your registrar gives you direct control over the NS records.

However, the DNS propagation of these changes can cause up to 24 hours of downtime for your website and email while the new NS records spread across DNS caches worldwide.

With NS hosting, the nameservers remain the same when you switch hosts. You simply update the A record IPs that point to the new web server. This reduces propagation time and the risk of extended downtime since the nameservers do not change.

In short

  • Delegating DNS to a third-party provider gives you greater control, performance, security, and flexibility.
  • Custom DNS settings allow you to optimize and fine-tune routing, failover, load balancing, and more.
  • Redundant nameservers via NS hosting improves uptime and stability.
  • Your website can change hosts seamlessly by keeping nameservers constant and updating records.

NS hosting requires some extra work up front, but provides site owners with a powerful set of DNS tools and configurations for optimal domain management.

Setting Up NS Hosting on Your Domain

Ready to take the plunge into NS hosting? Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting your domain pointed to external nameservers for the first time.

Finding the right NS hosting provider

With so many options, how do you select the best DNS provider for your needs? Here are the key factors to consider:

  • Reliability – Look for providers with extensive global DNS infrastructures and solid uptime track records. You want nameservers that will always be there when lookups happen.
  • Speed – Fast worldwide DNS resolution is critical for site performance. Pick providers with nameservers in diverse geographic areas near your visitors.
  • Security – Robust DDoS protection and DNSSEC support are must-have security features.
  • Support – Find providers with solid technical support in case you need assistance configuring records.
  • Features – Some providers offer advanced capabilities like traffic management, geo-IP routing, failover setups, API access, and more.
  • Cost – DNS plans range from free to enterprise-level. Factor in your budget and needs. Some bundle with web hosting plans.
  • Reviews – Research reviews and testimonials to gauge overall reputation in managing DNS for domains.

Popular picks that meet the criteria include Cloudflare, NS1, Dyn, Route 53, Azure DNS, and GCP Cloud DNS.

Pointing your domain to new nameservers

Once you’ve chosen an NS hosting provider, it’s time to update your domain’s NS records to point to their nameservers.

Log into your domain registrar’s control panel and navigate to the page for managing DNS settings. Look for the option to enter custom nameservers or edit NS records.

Delete any existing NS records and enter new records for your provider’s servers. For example, if using Cloudflare:

Be sure to save your changes afterwards. The new NS records will now propagate worldwide over the next 24-48 hours. Your domain is now pointing visitors to your external DNS provider!

Updating NS records with your domain registrar

Most registrars make it simple to enter new NS records through their control panel interface. But the specifics vary:

  • GoDaddy – Login and go to Domain Settings > Manage DNS > Enter Custom Values > Select Use Custom Nameservers
  • Namecheap – Select your domain > Manage > Advanced DNS > Enter nameservers
  • Bluehost – Access Domains > Manage Domains > Select Change Nameservers > Enter custom NS
  • HostGator – Go to Domains > DNS Zone Editor > Replace existing NS records

Refer to your registrar’s documentation for exact steps. Some may require contacting support to modify nameservers.

Waiting for DNS propagation

After changing NS records, you’ll need to wait up to 48 hours for the changes to propagate across the worldwide DNS system. Existing DNS caches will gradually refresh with the new nameserver data.

During this transition period, visitors may be routed inconsistently to the old and new nameservers. This can lead to downtime or errors until propagation completes.

You can verify when propagation has finished by checking NS lookup tools like WhatsMyDNS or DNSChecker. They will reveal if global DNS has your new nameservers in place.

With NS hosting established, you’re ready to dive into configuring DNS records on your provider’s servers!

Configuring DNS Settings with NS Hosting

With your domain pointing to new nameservers, it’s time to set up DNS records to get your site and email working. External DNS providers offer various ways to configure settings.

Accessing DNS management tools

Your NS hosting provider should give you access to a DNS control panel to manage records. Common options include:

  • Web interface – Login to a dashboard to add, edit, and delete records through forms and tables.
  • Command line – Some provide CLI tools to configure records and zones from your terminal.
  • APIs – Developer-oriented providers may offer DNS REST APIs to automate configuration programmatically.
  • Config files – Text zone files can be uploaded containing records in BIND format.

Many also integrate DNS management into platforms like cPanel for unified control.

The procedures for adding records varies but generally involves:

  1. Logging into your provider’s DNS management system.
  2. Selecting your domain or zone.
  3. Entering record details like type, hostname, value, and TTL.
  4. Saving the record.

Let’s walk through some common record types you’ll need to setup.

Setting up records for your site and email

These core records connect your domain to the hosting services that power your website and email.

A records

Map hostnames to IP addresses that serve web content. For example:

Hostname: @ or (blank) 
Type: A

This points your root domain to the specified IP. You can also map sub-domains like www or blog.

CNAME records

Alias hostnames to another domain. Allows sharing one IP with multiple domains. For example:

Hostname: www

Here www is aliased to rather than having its own IP.

MX records

Route email to mail servers by specifying priority and hostname. For instance:

Hostname: @
Type: MX 
Value: 10

This sends email to with priority 10. Lower numbers have higher priority.

Utilizing advanced DNS features

External DNS providers enable using advanced capabilities through additional record types.

CAA records

Let Certificate Authorities know which ones are allowed to issue SSL certificates for your domain. For example:

Name: @
Type: CAA

This authorizes Let’s Encrypt to issue certs but restricts others.

TXT records

Enter freeform text for domain ownership validation or custom use cases. For example:

Name: @
Type: TXT
Value: "v=spf1 ~all"  

This functions as an SPF record to configure email authentication.

With your core DNS setup in place, take advantage of advanced features to fine-tune and optimize your domain!

Migrating to NS Hosting from Regular Hosting

If you currently have your DNS coupled with web hosting, switching to decoupled NS hosting takes some upfront work. But the long-term flexibility is worth it.
Here are the steps to migrate from unified DNS/hosting to separate NS hosting:

Point domain to new nameservers

First, you’ll need to update your domain’s NS records to your new provider’s nameservers per the instructions above.

Once propagated, your domain will be pointed to the new external DNS instead of your hosting provider’s servers.

Move website files and database to NS host

Now you need to migrate the actual web hosting part.

If your NS hosting provider only does DNS, you’ll also need a separate web host account. Popular options include:

  • DigitalOcean
  • Vultr
  • Linode
  • AWS Lightsail
  • GCP Compute Engine

Choose a provider, sign up for a account, and launch a Linux virtual machine instance or container.

Use FTP to transfer your website files and folders to your new hosting. For the database, export it to a SQL dump file and import into a new database.

Make sure to update any credentials in code pointing to the old database. Test that the site works properly on the new hosting before going live.

You may be able to automate parts of the migration using server images or tools like Ansible depending on your setups.

Update DNS records and configurations

With the web hosting moved over, it’s time to update your DNS records on the new nameservers.

Point your A records to the new server IP and update any hardcoded IPs in code. Reconfigure email MX records if needed to route mail.

Utilize this opportunity to optimize your DNS settings like enabling HTTPS/SSL, enabling CDNs, redirecting www to non-www etc.

Change any services pointing to old host

Finally, migrate and update any other external services that pointed to your old hosting environment:

  • Update payment gateways with new IPs
  • Switch CDNs or analytics services to new server
  • Change advertising scripts and tags referencing old domain
  • Update Stripe/PayPal IPNs to hit new listener URLs
  • Modify domain validation TXT records as needed

With these steps complete, your domain is now served through external DNS while the website and apps are hosted separately. Enjoy the flexibility!

In short

  • Change domain NS records first before switching web hosting
  • Downtime can be minimized by pre-migrating site before DNS cutover
  • Moving to NS hosting is a good chance to revamp infrastructure and services
  • Always test site thoroughly on new hosting before going live
  • Propagation delays still apply when changing nameservers

Migrating from unified hosting and DNS to decoupled providers takes some effort. But you gain more control over your domain in return.

Potential Challenges with NS Hosting

While NS hosting has many advantages, it also comes with some potential downsides to consider. Planning ahead for these challenges can help minimize any issues.

DNS propagation delays

The main delay comes from propagation time whenever you need to change NS records. This can lead to up to 24-48 hours of downtime while the updated nameservers spread across DNS caches globally.

During propagation, visitors may be inconsistently routed to the old and new nameservers. Web hosting and email can break during this period.

Unfortunately there are no shortcuts around waiting for propagation. Some tips:

  • Plan record changes in advance and avoid last-minute edits.
  • Make NS changes directly at the registry for faster propagation.
  • Renew your domain for multiple years to avoid mandatory yearly updates.
  • Initially run both old and new NS in parallel until fully propagated.
  • Adjust TTLs to make records expire faster before a planned change.

Fortunately you won’t have to go through this often. Optimization and planning can minimize headaches.

Complexity of custom DNS management

With great power comes great responsibility! Since you manage DNS directly, it’s now your duty to understand records and configure everything properly.

No automated tools will setup DNS for you. You’ll need to learn the roles of records like A, CNAME, MX, NS, TXT, CAA etc.

Common misconfigurations like missing MX records or incorrect A records can cause failures. You may be on your own troubleshooting rather than relying on a host’s support team.

Make use of DNS management tools and validation testing tools to catch any mistakes. Allocate time to learn DNS fundamentals before launch.

Lack of built-in HTTP web hosting

Most external DNS providers focus solely on DNS, not standard web hosting you may be used to.

This means no auto-configured LAMP/LEMP server, shared cPanel hosting, or instant setups. You manage web hosting completely separate from DNS.

You’ll need to manually configure and maintain your own hosting environment on a VPS or cloud server. This adds complexity, but is worth the tradeoff for many.

No email services unless integrated

Like web hosting, email services are also separate with NS hosting. You won’t get predefined mailboxes or webmail.

For business email, you can integrate third-party inboxes from providers like Google Workplace or Zoho Mail.

Otherwise, you will need to run your own SMTP mail server and handle emails programmatically. This involves extra infrastructure and administration.

In summary, NS hosting has a learning curve and more moving pieces to manage. But problems can be mitigated by thorough planning, testing, and using automation tools where possible.

The flexibility and capabilities unlocked by controlling your DNS records directly ultimately provide long-term value for advanced users.

Top NS Hosting Providers

With so many options for external DNS hosting, which providers consistently deliver the performance, features, and support that NS setups demand? Based on reputation, capabilities, and reviews, here are top picks to consider.

InMotion Hosting

InMotion has gained a strong following by combining solid DNS management with shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting options.

Key features:

  • Free DNS even for non-hosting customers
  • Anycast global DNS network
  • Custom DNSSEC signing
  • GeoDNS routing
  • Intelligent load balancing
  • Automatic SSL management
  • Authoritative and recursive services

InMotion provides an intuitive DNS web interface alongside hosting control panels. DNS zone importing, API access, and other advanced capabilities provide flexibility for developers and enterprises.

Plans and pricing:

  • Free DNS with any hosting plan
  • $4.99/month standalone DNS plan
  • Volume discounts available

Ideal for: Businesses seeking professional DNS tools bundled with high-performance hosting.

Liquid Web

Liquid Web is known for managed hosting solutions for SMBs powered by its DDoS protection and Content Delivery Network.

Key features:

  • Geographically distributed anycast DNS
  • Customizable load balancing and failover
  • Integrates with Liquid Web managed hosting
  • Near real-time DNS record changes
  • Automatic DNSSEC signing support
  • Full-service migration assistance

Plans and pricing:

  • From $5/month+ per zone
  • Bundled packages with hosting discounts
  • Free DNS with managed hosting plans

Ideal for: Businesses that want reliable managed DNS alongside managed hosting.


HostGator’s shared and reseller hosting plans make it a popular option for launching sites on a budget. Their DNS platform brings similar value.

Key features:

  • Free DNS management with HostGator hosting
  • Easy-to-use control panel and API
  • Standard DNS record types
  • Anycast DNS network
  • Custom nameservers option
  • Automatic DNSSEC

Plans and pricing:

  • Free with HostGator shared hosting plans
  • $5.99/month standalone DNS hosting

Ideal for: Small businesses that want straightforward DNS with HostGator’s hosting.


Bluehost’s beginner-friendly shared hosting solutions come bundled with basic DNS management at no extra cost.

Key features:

  • Free DNS integrated with hosting
  • Nameserver aliases to improve uptime
  • Standard DNS records
  • Automatic DNSSEC
  • Simple control panel

Plans and pricing:

  • Free with Bluehost shared hosting plans
  • $2.99/month standalone DNS

Ideal for: Beginners on a budget seeking no-frills DNS alongside Bluehost hosting.


GoDaddy remains one of the world’s largest domain registrars and also offers beefed-up managed NS hosting.

Key features:

  • Managed DNS with any domain registration
  • Delivers traffic faster with Anycast network
  • Advanced DNS filtering
  • Customizable health checks
  • Automatic DNSSEC signing
  • DDoS protection

Plans and pricing:

  • Managed DNS from $6/month with domains
  • Bundled discounts on multiple products

Ideal for: Those that want managed DNS seamlessly integrated with GoDaddy domains.

In nutshell

  • Balance cost, performance, features, and support when choosing providers.
  • Look for geographically diverse nameservers and Anycast networks.
  • Integrated hosting and support services are ideal for simplicity.
  • Advanced capabilities like load balancing require more robust providers.

With top providers like these, you can confidently hand over DNS control rather than relying on inflexible web host DNS.

Key Takeaways for NS Hosting

NS hosting provides immense value for those needing custom DNS flexibility and advanced configurations. To recap:

  • NS hosting delegates DNS control to specialized external providers instead of your registrar or web host.
  • It enables implementing geolocation routing, intelligent load balancing, failover redundancy, and other powerful features.
  • Migrating to NS hosting takes some upfront work, but provides long-term benefits.
  • Look for providers with robust Anycast networks, solid reliability, DDoS protection, and bonus features like APIs.
  • Manage DNS through user-friendly control panels, CLI tools, APIs, or config files depending on your preferences.
  • Properly configure A, CNAME, MX and other records to get your site and email working after migrating.
  • Budget extra time for DNS changes whenever NS records need updating due to propagation delays.
  • Carefully plan migrations in advance and avoid last-minute DNS record edits to minimize downtime.
  • Consider bundled packages that provide both managed DNS and web hosting for simpler configurations.

By splitting apart DNS management from the rest of your hosting stack, NS hosting unlocks the next level of speed, reliability, control, and performance.

Frequently Asked Questions About NS Hosting

Still have some lingering questions about the ins and outs of NS hosting? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.
What are the different types of DNS records I need to know?

The main record types are A, CNAME, MX, TXT, and NS. A records point domains to IP addresses. CNAMEs alias hostnames. MX records route email. TXT provides text info. NS delegates to nameservers.

Do I need a web host separate from my DNS provider?

Most external DNS providers focus just on DNS, not standard web hosting. So in most cases you would need to have separate web hosting through another provider or service.

How much does NS hosting cost?

There is a wide range of plans. Some providers offer free DNS tiers. For advanced capabilities, expect managed plans in the $5 to $15 per month range. Bundles with hosting are common.

What is DNS propagation and how long does it take?

Propagation is how long it takes for updated DNS records to spread globally when making NS hosting changes. It typically takes 24-48 hours for full worldwide propagation.

How do I point my domain to new nameservers?

You’ll update the NS records in your domain registrar’s control panel to the names of the nameservers provided by your DNS host. This could be or similar.

How can I migrate my site to NS hosting?

First update NS records. Then migrate web hosting and update A records. Finally, configure email MX records and other DNS needed. Do not make DNS changes until hosting is migrated.

What are the risks of managing my own DNS?

The main risk is potential misconfiguration since you control the records. Thoroughly test DNS and have backups before migrating domains and traffic.

What advantages does NS hosting offer?

It allows using advanced DNS features, customizing DNS freely, isolating DNS from web hosting, improving stability and uptime, and easily switching web hosts anytime.

How can I get help with NS hosting issues?

Most DNS providers offer technical support and troubleshooting. You can also find help through web hosting communities and forums for common DNS problems.