When you type a URL into your browser – such as www.setupmyvps.com – your computer contacts a DNS (Domain Name Server). These servers store massive lists of where everything is on the Internet.
For example (much simplified and not strictly accurate), when you type in this site’s URL, your ISP looks up the address. It finds that the site is stored at a certain IP address and tells your computer that address. Your computer contacts my VPS and my VPS sends the HTML that forms these pages back down the wire to your computer, where they instruct your browser to display the text you’re reading.
But how does a DNS know where to find this site and how does the VPS know what to send? Nameservers, that’s how.
The funny thing about nameservers is that they don’t really exist. I mean, they’re not always an actual machine. A nameserver (or “name server”) is just an automated service that runs on a computer and converts human-friendly addresses into machine-friendly numbers, and vice-versa.
Simple enough, right? Right.