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This information must be out there, but a search for "DNS registrar and host" hardly brings the educational content to the top, so I'd apprecate any pointers
a) registration of your domain - provided, naturally enough, by a registrar. Many web hosts will handle the interaction with them on your behalf. You need (b) lined up to set this up.
b) DNS hosting - often provided by your registrar, often provided by your hosting provider, could be provided by a third party, though I've never heard of anyone actually doing it that way.
c) web hosting - some registrars provide very basic web hosting, but I don't know of any that provide web hosting suitable for anything more than a temporary or personal site.
You probably also want some form of e-mail hosting, whether it's forwarding or real pop3/imap mailboxes. Many registrars offer this, as do many web hosts.
If you are changing hosts, your registrar should provide some means by which you can either specify new IP addresses for your domain, if they provide the hosting, or by which you can specify new DNS servers, if your web host provides the DNS hosting.
A word of caution: some hosting services, and even some registrars of lesser repute, will register your new domain in to themselves rather than to you. If that's the case, then you may find moving to a new hosting service either difficult or impossible. I think this slimy practice is less common than it used to be, but when I registered my first domain just a little more than a year ago, about half the registrars I considered were doing it.
I don't know how much I can help beyond giving you this information, since in my set-up, everything except (a) is provided by me on my own personal servers. That means I know a lot about how it works technically, and not so much about the vagaries of dealing with hosting providers.
You need (b) lined up to set this up.
Not entirely true. Registrars will often let you "park" a DN at with them. In this case, there is no hosting per se. DNS is set up so that when a root server queries the record, the registrar's server responds with something like "yup, that's one of mine".
web hosting - some registrars provide very basic web hosting, but I don't know of any that provide web hosting suitable for anything more than a temporary or personal site
Many registrars are now adding rich hosting options.
Anyone allowed to dole out a TLD (of .org, .com, .net flavor) must be registered with ICANN
Beneath this list there are smaller businesses which buy into a reseller package and sell DNs. It looks like they're a registrar but they aren't.
If you're just thinking of switching hosting (where you host your website) then you don't necessarily need to switch the registrar. In fact, it's much easier if you don't. All you need to do is get an account set up at the new host's web server, get a copy of your files there, set up your email the way you want it, AND then you can request a modification to your DN record (the part where it says Name Server 1 & Name Server 2).
Lorax, your comments on switching hosts get to my main question though. If you switch hosts the DN record needs to be changed, so I'm trying to get it straight in my head who does this DN maintenance.
Dingman, you suggested that it can be either, sometimes the registrar handles the DNS, sometimes the host. Which is more usual?
My guess has been that the host provides the DNS itself, but the registrar records the IP addresses of these DNS servers (as you see them in a whois record). And if I switch hosts, or just park a domain then go looking for a host, it's the registrar I need to talk to about updating this information.
Am I on base here or off.
Now, you may have a contract with your host such that they handle all DNS changes for you - good for you as long as you stay with them as the host. But should you decide to leave, they may not be so willing to help. That's why I encourage you to learn how to make changes to the record yourself.
Talk to the registrar about how to learn what you need. If the registrar is your host, then you shouldn't need to worry about moving it on your own. As a registrar they should (operative word) be willing to help you make the necessary changes.
could be provided by a third party
I've done this through several third-party providers with mixed results. The free ones tend to be slow and have iffy quality, the pay services tend to be VERY expensive.
What I finally wound up doing was set up my own DNS server. Now that has finally made me happy.
What I finally wound up doing was set up my own DNS server.
An excellent way to have complete control! But then you either need to pay for co-location costs or a dedicated line. Not to mention all of responsibilities of owning your own server (setup, admin, security, load mgmnt, etc...) get added to your list of things to do. I'm not poohpoohing the concept - just expanding the picture. :)
There are good hosting providers out there. Not one of them fits all needs. Mine suits me fine as they give me the level of service I expect for a price I think fair. I'm not a high-bandwidth site nor do I need lots of support. I have command line access when I need it and when I ask for things slightly out of the ordinary (like the cURL library) they either work with me to get it installed or tell me why they don't want to do it. Sometimes they offer a suitable alternative as well. The point is you need to know where your strengths are and then find a solution that fits. The only way to accomplish this is research.
to answer your question - possibly. DNS determines what services (www, email, ftp) are located where. What your telling me is that the host either doesn't handle DNS or does such a poor job of it that they felt they needed to have someone else handle DNS. The question that comes to mind is if the host isn't handling the Domain's mail, who is? The folks that are providing DNS?
Dingman, you suggested that it can be either, sometimes the registrar handles the DNS, sometimes the host. Which is more usual?
I'm not sure which is more usual. My guess is that most people have their hosting provider handle DNS, though I know that my registrar will do it for no extra charge. I can tell you how to figure it out, though.
The following directions assume you have access to a Unix-style command line on a machine connected to the internet. There are Windows tools to do this as well, and web sites that will let you read 'whois' information, but frankly I don't use them so I don't know exactly which packages to recommend. I'm sure someone here can fill in that blank, though.
All the information about your domain is stored in the Whois and Domain Name systems. To find out who the contact people and primary name servers are for your domain, simply type 'whois mydomain.com' at a Unix-style command prompt. At the very least, you will get a response like the following:
Whois Server Version 1.3
Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to [internic.net...]
for detailed information.
Domain Name: MYDOMAIN.ORG
Whois Server: whois.myregistrar.net
Referral URL: [myregistrar.net...]
Name Server: NS.MYDOMAIN.ORG
Name Server: NS2.MYDOMAIN.ORG
Updated Date: 24-may-2002
>>> Last update of whois database: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 04:58:23 EDT <<<
The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and
There may be more information after that, depending on how recent a version of 'whois' is installed on the machine in question. What we see here is enough to let you know that I handle my own DNS. If the 'Name Server:' lines pointed to 'NS.MYREGISTRAR.NET' and 'NS6.MYREGISTRAR.NET', you would know that my registrar was hosting my DNS service. Likewise, if they were 'NS.MYHOSTINGPROVIDER.COM', you could conclude that my DNS hosting was provided by my web hosting provider.
Those names are all examples. Nothing requires that name servers be named ns#.domain.tld, it's just a common convention. The domain that the servers belong to, though, will tell you who provides the DNS service.
<added>OK, as I should have guessed, 'myregistrar.net' exists and is owned by a registrar. Silly me. It's not the one I use and I did not mean to endorse any particular service. If you want to know who I use & like, look in my profile and then look up my domain ;)</added>
I've noticed that some hosts provide more than 2 Name Servers
The name of the game is redundancy and speed. If one NameServer is offline or unreachable (internet congestion or other) the secondary will answer a DN query in its place, and if that one is busy the next one in line will answer.
Imagine one NameServer. Someone requests a page from the webserver just a split second before another person requests a page from yours. The first request to get to the NameServer will be processed first. Normally, this is a matter of milliseconds and then it handles the next request. But if there are a lot of people all hit the NameServers at the same time, then things can get slow.
With 4 NameServers, each one of them has a picture of all the websites that host is responsible for. And each one can handle requests so the load of one is now shared by four. This set up means a faster response.
And to make matters even more confusing the NameServer can be a webserver to - or it can point to any number of webservers. Totally up to the SysOp. Again, an issue of speed and redundancy.
I'm a firm believer of the Technical Contact being set to whomever is in charge of DNS. That's their job. The Billing/Admin could be you or could be the DNS service. The ISP I work for chooses to have our name on all of the contact info because the customers often forget to pay for the DN when it comes up for renewal or they get confused and ignore or delete email & snail mail from the DN Registrar. As long as your name appears as the registrant - you have final say over that domain name (except, of course, for the issuing organizations such as ICANN). You can check the record by using WHOIS offered at many of the DN registrars web sites.
The company I use for to register my domains is not on the list and either is there parent company. Should I be concerned? My company and name is on all the domains as the Registrant.
Also just a side note - I recently switched to a host that allows me to use custom name servers for $20/month. This is great because I register my own domains and list my name servers for clients sites and looks as though I have my own name servers. I can't afford the co-location at this point, but this solution has worked so far.
If you really want to find out, ask your registrar who they're using.
>> allows me to use custom name servers
Custom branding to hide the fact that you're using a service company is not uncommon. More and more of the multi-service hosting companies offer this.
Another thought. Personally, I don't care for branding. My clients trust me to look after their interests regardless of who's name is on the DN record. My approach is that I want them to know that I'm telling them everything - no hidden surprizes. And if for some reason their website goes off-line - I'm not the one who looks bad though I do everything I can to get them back on-line asap.:)
Sorry, I don't have any information on that subject but I would hazard a guess that you're talking thousands. :)
...a host that allows me to use custom name servers for $20/month. This is great because I register my own domains and list my name servers for clients sites and looks as though I have my own name servers. I can't afford the co-location at this point...
These days its not a bad idea to separate your DNS hosting from your actual web hosting. It gives you much more flexibility in managing your site. If your web host goes down or you have a dispute you can then use your trusty DNS management panel (at your 3rd party DNS host) to point to a different IP and within a few minutes your URL is resolving to a site you have setup at a different host.
I've found that the newer registrars now offer quite a few value added DNS management features. I now avoid registering my domains through my host. As an example, I currently use Discountdomainregistry.com (I'm not affiliated in any way, yadda yadda) and for my $15 domain registration fee I get complete control of all my "A Name", MX, and other records, can point a domain name/URL at a different URL (ie. not using IP address or A Name records) and can also setup e-mail forwarding through them.
There are also "industrial strength" DNS Hosts that are extremely reliable, propagate changes worldwide in minutes, and have alot of other value added features like automatic monitoring, switching to backups on fail, etc..(one I used at a previous job was UltraDNS.com -- once again, I'm not affiliated in any way just giving an example).
You bring up a good point. There is something to be said about having access to your own DNS record - providing you know what you're doing. It's not for everyone.
If for some reason you decided to relocate your website then the most important difference between making the change at the Registrar level (on your DN record) versus making the change to DNS is that DNS is instantaneous - or at least as soon as the DNS server refreshes itself which is almost certain to be sooner than the root servers.
If your web host goes down or you have a dispute you can then use your trusty DNS management panel (at your 3rd party DNS host) to point to a different IP and within a few minutes your URL is resolving to a site you have setup at a different host.
What about caching? Do you need to keep your TTL low to do this? My TTL is set to about 24 hours, so if I have to change IPs I'm assuming that I'd be down for 24 hours. If I set my TTL to, say, 5 minutes then we load our DNS servers more. Is this right? This has been a burning question with me :)
Dingman said: To find out who the contact people and primary name servers are for your domain, simply type 'whois mydomain.com' at a Unix-style command prompt.
To get the full contact/registrant info, you may need to add the -h flag. Do the above to get the registrar name, then type:
whois -h whois.myregistrar.net mydomain.com
No worries about duplicate content, as any given visitor will only be able to find *one* of the two possible IPs at any given time. Apparently some SEs cache DNS for far longer than the defined timeout, so depending on your needs, you might find that it makes sense to leave the duplicate content up longer, but again, they'll only get one so you don't need to worry about getting penalized for duplication.
One specialty DNS service (I'm not affiliated), UltraDNS mentioned to me that they use a TTL set to 5 minutes. Also, they are able to propagate changes thoughout the various zones so that any DNS changes are actually virtually immediately viewable (5 minutes).
If I set my TTL to, say, 5 minutes then we load our DNS servers more. Is this right?
Hello jamesa - welcome to WebmasterWorld.
You are correct. A shorter TTL will increase network traffic as the servers/routers reload the DNS. Which is good for publishing new DNS entries or updates but bad for performance.
Longer TTLs improve performance as the cached information is much quicker to respond than a file read. And if my request for your top page can be answered by a router 3 hops out rather than the 6 to reach your DNS server, the response time is cut by that much again.
All this being said, TTL is only good if the responding piece of equipment has cached your DNS record. If your DNS info never passed through a given server or a router, then when it is called for the requesting server may very well get a fresh thread to the DNS server - result: no downtime. But don't count on it. :)
To obtain the domain registration key and manage the domain can be a nightmare. Folks run the risk of losing their domains and become food for the domain registration sharks.
I think it is very important to not always look at this from a *cost* angle, but to make sure that either YOU know how to handle your domain or you seek out a domain management service you can trust. At ALL times YOU should have access to the domain for changes, as well as your domain manager.