Manage Your Own DNS
Managed DNS is provided as a service or a control panel which gives you full control over your domain name and allows more flexibility in the function and configuration of your web site. Main benefits include:
- Easily creating canonical or sub domains and assigning them to any server you wish
- Usually much quicker DNS propagation if you change hosting server locations and IP address
- Choice of email forwarding or using the mail service of your hosting account
Some more advanced features are offered depending where you decide to manage your DNS, such as round robin DNS for load distribution or an even more specialized load balancing and fail-over service.
When you sign up with a hosting provider they should ask for a domain name the account will use, this is to set up their own servers to route domain requests to the right account. You will manage the rest of the domain configuration at your domain registrar rather than through your host control panel.
This guide relates mostly to managed or semi-managed hosting such as the types listed on this site. The domain management interfaces provided at places like Registerfly, Namecheap, or Zoneedit make it easy enough that you won't need to know the nuts and bolts of all things DNS related.
Record Types: A, CNAME, MX
You will only really need to know three main record types:
- A-Record - The Address Record, IP address of the server where your site is located.
- MX Record - Mail Exchange record, tells other servers which server handles email for that domain. (optional)
- CNAME - Canonical Name Record, domain aliases. (optional)
The A-Record is the most important of the bunch, this will translate the human readable form (www.hostingprimer.com) into an IP address that computers use, which is also the IP address of the server where your web site is hosted. If you change hosting provider all you need to do is change your A-records to point to the new server, this update can only takes minutes instead of hours(or days) it sometimes takes when using your host's name servers.
MX records are optional in the sense that you can use your domain registrar for email forwarding to one of your existing email addresses and not have to reconfigure your email program. If you want to use the email functions of your webserver you will need to set up two records, an A record and MX record for the mail server address.
CNAME records are not really needed but can be convenient when you have many different sub-domains on the same server, if your IP address ever changes you will only need to change the one A-record that all CNAME's are pointing to. CNAME records should never point to another CNAME but only to A-records, "mail" and "ftp" should always be an A-record rather than CNAME. (see examples below)
The examples shown here are what is basically needed for a site to function, a few things to note:
- The A addresses are all identical because the same server handles mail, ftp, and www, a common feature with inexpensive hosting plans.
- The @ symbol represents none, or your domain name without www or any other canonicals before it. (hostingprimer.com)
- The "www" host name in the second example is a CNAME pointing to the "@" A-record to illustrate what was mentioned above about convenience, however it's usually better to use A-records all around like the first example (less DNS lookups).
- There is a trailing period for both the MX and CNAME record, this period is sometimes inserted automatically if the registrar recognizes the TLD, it is good practice to insert it yourself.
- Do not copy the IP address here if you follow this guide, you must use the IP address given by your hosting provider (not the name server ones).
Above: Registerfly control panel under Advanced Domain Settings->Advanced DNS
Below: Namecheap control panel under Host Management->All Host Records