Who Hosts This Website? Tips And Tools For Finding IP Address, DNS Details And More

The majority of medium-sized businesses now have their websites. While employees may direct you to the correct address, they frequently have no idea who hosts the website you’re responsible for maintaining.

When I ask who hosts their email — or the website itself — I frequently get a blank stare in response. “Who is hosting my website?” or, my personal favorite, “Who is hosting my website?” Well… Bob’s nephew started it years ago, but he’s gone to college, and we can’t reach him.” It makes sense in some ways. The majority of people only require web and email hosting. All they want is for things to work. It isn’t their concern who hosts a particular website.

Some tools that are already installed on Mac, PC, and Linux systems can help you determine who hosts a website so that you can get to work.

Find out who hosts this website in three steps

  1. Use ping to find the IP address.
  2. Use WHOIS to find the host information.
  3. Use a dedicated service to look up details.

We’ll be using screenshots from a Mac for this article, but similar tools exist for Windows and Linux systems as well.

Know these key terms before you get started

Finding out who hosts the website in question will require some detective work, and there are a few terms we’ll need to understand before we begin. Let’s keep it simple with some simple definitions in layman’s terms:

  • Ping — A tool that will return the IP address of the webserver.
  • WHOIS — A lookup that tells me who hosts my domain, where it was registered, and what the DNS server is.
  • Registrar — A company that helps you look up and register a domain name.
  • DNS — A Domain Name Server (DNS) converts a domain name to an IP address, allowing you to load the appropriate server based on the domain name.
  • MX Record — A Mail eXchange Record tells you where email is delivered when it is stored on a server other than the one that hosts the website.

Sometimes all you have to do is try one of these to figure out who is hosting a website. Sometimes you’ll need all of them, or a combination of them, such as getting a server’s IP address and then Googling it to see who owns the DNS for a specific domain. Let’s get started with that in mind.

Use ping to get the IP address for a website.

Pinging the address is always the first step. Type ping aaronreimann.com into your device’s terminal application. It’s a relatively simple procedure, but in case you’re interested, here’s an article that goes over it in greater depth.

If you keep pinging, you’ll get something like this:

You can then type the IP address into your browser. It will occasionally return a landing page for that server, which will display the hosting company’s logo. If that doesn’t work, I like to use HostingCompass, which allows you to type in an IP address to learn important details about who is hosting my domain:

Read: How To Make Money Blogging

Use WHOIS to discover who hosts this website

Who is who, and what is what? The second step in our investigation into who hosts the website we’re looking for is to use WHOIS. You can type the whois domain name.dev into the terminal (or shell, depending on your operating system). Make sure to replace domainname.dev with the correct domain.

I’ll be using my domain name, aaronreimann.com, and my father’s domain name, jimreimann.com, for this site. Because each domain name can be completely different, I’m using two different ones. In this case, my father’s domain is straightforward. I type whois jimreimann.com into the terminal, and this is what I get:

It’s pretty simple: GoDaddy is the registrar, and A2 Web Hosting is the DNS provider. If this were my client, I’d need them to share their GoDaddy and A2 Web Hosting login credentials before I could work on their site. But what if we type whois aaronreimann.com into the search box?

This is where the investigation becomes a little more difficult.

Cloudflare isn’t a hosting web service. Through a WHOIS lookup, we can’t see where it’s pointing. If your client can provide that login information, you can log in at cloudflare.com. You’ll be able to get an A record from there, which will reveal where aaronreimann.com is pointing.

The IP address of the server hosting this website can be found in this A record. Open a browser and type the IP address into the address bar. That should take you to a generic hosting page showing where the site is hosted, or you can get information about the IP address using the method we just covered.

GoDaddy has you covered with this helpful help article if you need step-by-step instructions. If none of this works, some tools can help you figure out where something is hosted.

Use a dedicated service to see who hosts this website

WhoIsHostingThis.com is one of the most popular services, but nothing is perfect. Some hosting companies, for example, have their entire infrastructure housed in a data center. The information returned by the tools will be about the data center’s network, not the hosting company that is using it.

Read Also: How To Jump On a Newsjacking Opportunity

What if the website is privately registered?

This isn’t as difficult as some may believe. Private registration hides the name of the person who registered the domain, but not the Registrar or DNS. Again, GoDaddy has some excellent resources for answering common questions about this topic.

Even if a domain name is registered privately, you should determine the hosting provider using the methods described above.

How do you find out where email is hosted?

Finding where email is hosted is the simplest of all the topics we’ve covered so far. If you’re using a Mac or Linux machine, command-line tools like dig and host can help you quickly find MX records. Consider the following two examples:

Open a terminal window and type dig aaronreimann.com MX +short to get the MX records:

Alternatively, go to the terminal and type host -t MX aaronreimann.com:

If you’re using Windows or don’t know how to use the command line, there are a few web tools you can use to make these procedures more user-friendly. MX Toolbox is one of the most popular. It will return MX records and make an educated guess as to where the email is stored. If the MX lookup returns something less obvious, take the domain name that the MX lookup did return and drop it in using the other tools you just learned about.

Closing thoughts on discovering who hosts a website

There is a slew of tools available to help you figure out who hosts this enigmatic website. Some are command lines, while others are available online. You’ll get the answers you need by using a combination of these methods.

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