How to Find Out Who Hosts a Web Site (Webhosting)
Here’s a quick little tip for anyone looking for a simple way to find out who is hosting a particular website. Trying to figure out who hosts a web site can be an annoying task if you’re trying to go through the usual channels by searching a WHOIS database, etc. A lot of times you’ll only get the company or person that registered the domain name, but not the actual hosting company.
Who is Hosting This? is a very simple web service whose sole purpose is to tell you the company that is hosting a website. I really like this because most of the other online web site checking tools simply do not give a clear and concise answer to this very simple question.
I came across this website because I was looking for a for better hosting company, but I first wanted to know what hosting companies some peer sites in my field were using, such as HowToGeek, Labnol.org, etc. I know those sites run smoothly and have millions of visitors every month, so if their servers can handle that traffic, I would be more inclined to go with one of those hosting companies.
Once you type in a domain name, for example, labnol.org, you’ll get your answer right away:
DreamHost is actually the hosting company for the Digital Inspiration website. I’ve tried it on a good number of sites and the results have been correct each time. Also, very large sites like Google.com, etc. will not give you any useful information because they have their own IP address ranges and use their own servers. You’ll also see this for other companies like CNET, etc because they manage all of their own hosting.
In addition to websites like Google and Facebook, you may also run into smaller websites that use private registration or extra privacy settings at their hosting company. When a domain is private, the information is hidden from public view and you’ll only see information about the company that is being used to hide the registration or nothing at all, like in the example below:
This site does a pretty good job because you can sometimes tell the hosting company by looking at the Name Servers, but here they are simply using the domain name and not the name of the hosting website. Even if you click on the WHOIS link, everything is privately registered.
If you try to look up the IP address, you will have more luck. Once I did a WHOIS lookup on the IP address, I was able to determine the hosting company. You can also try another website like WebHostingHero. Their site was able to give me the correct info.
But why would you need to know the hosting provider? Here are a few reasons:
1. Developers Needing a Client’s Information
It may sound strange, but there are times when a client doesn’t know who their hosting provider is! They might have set up the site a long time ago, set up the auto payment and forgotten about it. So when they ask you to access their hosting panel, or change providers, you need to know where their site is hosted.
This tool will give you that information!
2. Identifying Site Scrapers and People Copying your Content
As part of its crackdown on spam, Google and other search engines are very active in barring sites that steal content from others. However, what do you do when you stumble across a page that’s blatantly ripping you off? It’s important to act fast because you don’t want to be misidentified as the site doing the copying instead!
You have the following options:
- Sending a cease and desist notice to the site in question;
- Filing a complaint with Google for copyright infringement;
- Report the problem to the web provider and ask them to take action;
For the third option, you need to know the name of the hosting provider. For example, GoDaddy has a DMCA takedown form for copyright and trademark violations that allows you to submit complaints directly to them. All major web hosting providers have this facility, and the tool on this page will help you identify the entity with whom you need to file a complaint.
3. To Combat Piracy
Closely linked to copyright infringement, is piracy. Let’s say you have a video that you submitted to Youtube and that you’re monetizing with advertisements. You find someone who steals that video and distributes it online either as a file, or directly in their web page. It’s bad enough that they might be taking away your views, but to add insult to injury, they might be deriving advertising revenue from it as well!
This is where you need to know the name of the provider who’s hosting the site. A DMCA takedown notice will be the first step to getting pirated content removed from the Internet, as well as other measures like complaining to the search engines.
4. For Competitor Analysis
This tool will allow you to identify the organization behind the website. By migrating your site to a proven hosting provider that can deliver the goods, you’re ensuring that you will receive the same stability and speed that your competitor (or similar website) enjoys.
That’s about it! Overall, you should really run into very few issues when trying to determine the hosting company for a website. If you do, someone is really trying hard to hide his/her server from the public.
Find out who hosts this website manually in three steps
- Use ping to find the IP address.
- Use WHOIS to find the host information.
- Use a dedicated service to look up details.
For this article, we’ll be using screenshots from a Mac, but equivalent tools exist for Windows and Linux systems, as well.
Know these key terms before you get started
Finding out who hosts this website in question can take a little detective work, and there are a few terms that we need to know before we take on the case. Let’s just keep things simple with short definitions, in layman’s terms:
- Ping — A tool that will return the IP address of the web server.
- WHOIS — A lookup that can tell who is hosting my domain, where it was registered and what the Domain Name Server is.
- Registrar — A company that help you look up and register a domain name.
- DNS — A Domain Name Server translates a domain name to an IP address, so you load the correct server based on the domain name requested.
- MX Record — A Mail eXchange Record lets email live on a server other than the one hosting the website, telling you where email is delivered.
Sometimes, you only need to try one of these to discover who hosts a website. Other times, you need all of them, or combinations — like getting the IP address of a server, and then Googling it to find out who owns the DNS of a certain domain. With that in mind, let’s get started.
Use ping to get the IP address for a website
The first step is always to “ping” the address. Simply go to your device’s terminal application, and enter ping aaronreimann.com. It’s a fairly straightforward operation.
Ping away, and you get something like this:
From here, you can enter the IP address in your browser. Sometimes it will return a landing page for that server, revealing the hosting company’s logo. If that doesn’t work, I like to use HostingCompass, which lets you simply type in an IP address to discover important information about who is hosting my domain in question:
Use WHOIS to discover who hosts this website
Who is what? WHOIS is the second step on the trail as we hunt down who hosts this website we’re after. You can simply go into terminal (or a shell, depending your operating system) and type in whois domainname.dev. Be sure to replace domainname.dev with the actual domain in question.
For this site, I’ll be using my domain name, aaronreimann.com, and my dad’s domain name, jimreimann.com. I’m using two different ones because each domain name can be a totally different. In this case, my dad’s domain is simple. I go into terminal, type in whois jimreimann.com, and here’s what I get:
It’s pretty straightforward: the registrar is GoGaddy and the DNS is A2 Web Hosting. If this were my client, I would need them to share their credentials for GoDaddy and A2 Web Hosting before I could log in to work on their site. But what if we enter whois aaronreimann.com?
Cloudflare isn’t a web host. We can’t see where it’s pointing through the WHOIS lookup. You can go to cloudflare.com to login, assuming your client can provide that login information. From there you will be able to get an A record that reveals where aaronreimann.com is really pointing.
This A record will give you the IP address of the server who is hosting this website. Simply open a browser, and then enter the IP address. That should take you to a generic hosting page showing where the site is hosted, or you can use the method we just covered to get information about the IP address.
Use a dedicated service to see who hosts this website
One of the most common services is WhoIsHostingThis.com, but nothing is perfect. For example, some hosting companies have their whole infrastructure set up on a data center. Tools will then return information about the data center’s network, not the hosting company using it.
What if the website is privately registered?
This isn’t as complex as some might think. Private registration masks who registered the domain, but it doesn’t hide the Registrar and DNS.
Even if a domain name is registered privately, you should be able to use the methods above to determine the hosting provider.
How do you find out where email is hosted?
Out of everything we’ve just covered, finding where email is hosted is easiest. If you’re on a Mac or Linux machine, there are some great command-line tools like dig and host that can quickly reveal MX records. Here are two examples:
Open terminal and type in digaaronreimann.com mx +short, and it will return the MX records:
Or go to terminal, and then enter host -t mx aaronreimann.com:
If you’re using Windows, or aren’t comfortable with command line, you can still turn to a few web tools to make these procedures more user friendly. One of the most popular is MX Toolbox. It will return MX records and give you its best guess at where the email is hosted. If the MX lookup returns something less obvious, just grab the domain name that the MX lookup does return, and then use the other tools you just learned about to drop in the domain.
Closing thoughts on discovering who hosts a website
There are a lot of tools out there to begin the searching for who hosts this website that’s been a mystery. Some of them are command line, some online. With a combination of these methods, you’ll find the answers you need.