Name servers: Every domain needs to have at least two, and every PBN owner is concerned about potential name server footprints and overlap, sometimes to the point of wanting a unique set of name servers for each domain.
In this article, we’ll discuss the issues related to name servers and name server footprints, as they relate to PBN owners.
What are Name Servers, and What Do They Do?
Name servers are part of the Domain Name System (DNS), the “phone book” of the internet. When you enter a domain name in your browser, a DNS query is made to find which name servers to query, in order to find the records for that domain.
For launchcdn.com, the name servers are dana.ns.cloudflare.com and david.ns.cloudflare.com
When your computer queries these name servers for the domain or subdomain that you want to access, it will receive an IP address. In the case of LaunchCDN, it will be one of Cloudflare’s IPs.
Once your computer has that IP address, it will then connect to the web server on that IP address to request the web page that you’ve asked it to display.
Name Server Footprints
When thinking about name server footprints, we need to look at a few different factors related to those name servers. Doing that allows us to determine if there’s any potential issues or not.
What Domain Name Are Those Name Servers On?
If the domain is owned by and used exclusively for the name servers of your PBN hosting provider, then your site is in trouble.
A few of our competitors do that. They register a unique domain name for their name servers or a unique name server domain per server. Some of them even have their brand in that custom name server domain, which is a huge red flag!
Using a name server domain that is owned by your PBN hosting provider creates a name server footprint that is very easy to follow. Tools like Security Trails can show you all of the domains that are using those name servers. Or, to put it simply, the other customers of that PBN hosting provider.
We use the name servers from the CDN provider where available – eg Amazon, StackPath and Cloudflare. Where that isn’t possible, we randomly allocate a DNS provider from one of several popular Premium DNS providers, including DNSimple, NS1, CloudNS, DNS Made Easy, Constellix and PointDNS.
And on our sister service, Bulk Buy Hosting, we use the generic/white label name servers provided by the hosting company, which are used by a number of the resellers on that provider.
How Many Domains Are Using Those Name Servers?
As mentioned before, we don’t run our own name server domains. We use the DNS services of the CDN providers where available, or use a range of Premium DNS Providers to offer name servers to our customers.
These providers have tens of thousands of domains pointing to their name servers, and serve large and popular services like:
- Shopify (DNSimple)
- Dropbox (NS1)
- Spam Experts (CloudNS)
- Evernote (DNS Made Easy)
- Libsyn (Constellix)
- FontAwesome (PointDNS)
You can use a tool like Security Trails to see all of the domains that share the same name servers and the total number that use any name server.
For example, ns1.dnsimple.com has 215,000+ domains using it, based on data from Security Trails.
I’ve generally found that the Security Trails database is a lot larger and more accurate than others that offer a similar service, eg ViewDNS are only reporting about 78,000 domains for ns1.dnsimple.com.
What Percentage of Your Network is Using The Same Name Servers?
Having a few domains in your network using the same name servers isn’t a problem, so long as there’s enough other domains on those name servers and your network is big enough.
A much bigger issue, for example, is putting all of your sites in the same Cloudflare account – which will result in the same name server pair for all domains. This is why we generate a unique Cloudflare account for every domain hosted with us, so that you get a unique name server pair from Cloudflare.
If you’re concerned about the name server footprint, we recommend sticking with using Amazon and Cloudflare on LaunchCDN. Cloudflare is now powering about 14% of the internet based on data from W3Techs, and is the largest CDN provider by number of sites that use it.
A Slightly More Hidden Name Server Footprint: SOA Records
SOA records form part of the initial response to a lookup request to a name server, and include the email address of the “hostmaster” – the e-mail address of the person or organisation responsible for that DNS zone.
By using Premium DNS providers, the SOA records on all of the DNS zones that we deploy are set to an email address owned by that Premium DNS hosting provider service, removing any potential footprint.
You can check the SOA record for any of your domains using this free SOA Checker tool.
Be careful of other PBN Hosting providers who provide their own domains for name servers. It’s a very easy footprint to identify and reverse engineer to find all of their customer’s sites.
Take the time to see how many other sites are using the same name servers, if you’re in doubt or if you’ve never seen that name server domain before.
Stick with Premium DNS providers, like we use on LaunchCDN, to blend in with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of sites that use the same provider.