DNS Records and the basics to get you started!
Nowadays more and more people are having a crack at building their own websites. Mainly its to save money. Great for those out there that are capable and have a little bit of technical knowledge. However a lot of people aren’t fully aware of the hidden hurdles. A lot of these go hand in hand with building a website, DNS records are one of them. We’re not just talking about the ‘do it yourself’ platforms out there like WIX, 1&1 and Squarespace. Any custom WordPress build, Joomla build and so on. If you want a custom email address with your domain name such as firstname.lastname@example.org there is a whole new realm of technical stuff to work through. Where are the emails setup? Where is the website hosting at? Are they both in the same place as the domain? How on earth do I connect all these things together?
Get them talking to each other!
Connecting these 3 things can be taxing for someone who is just a little inexperienced in working with DNS. Let alone someone who has no knowledge at all! We thought we’d write a blog post breaking down some of the setups that we tend to come across and what settings need changing and where.
It can get a whole lot more complicated than the following scenarios. But still, we thought we’d start off simple rather than go over all the hurdles of having additional domains/subdomains, CNAME records etc! Hopefully this little mini guide to the basics will help you understand a bit more about how DNS Records work. And also what they do, and perhaps even help you get your own website, hosting and email accounts all working together.
(Please note that any DNS Records change can take from 24-48 hours propagation time. That being said they could be ready within an hour or straight away. This is why it can be tricky working with DNS or learning it in a trial and error fashion because you have to wait an hour or more to find out if what you have changed has worked or not!)
What do I need to do if my domain name, website hosting and email accounts are all in the same place?
If all three of the above are in one location, i.e a company that enables you to purchase a domain name, host your website and also setup email accounts such as GoDaddy or 123-REG – then no action is required (the Nameservers on your domain name options can be left as the default). Nameservers tell the domain, when searched in a browser, to look to a specific location for both the website files (to display your website) and email accounts (to handle your incoming and outgoing mail).
What to do if my website hosting is in one place and my emails are in another?
In the scenario that your domain name and website files are hosted in one location but your email accounts are hosted elsewhere. You need to add some MX records. These can be supplied by your email provider such as Gmail or Outlook. You would then add to the dashboard or control panel at your Domain Registrar location. For example GoDaddy or REG-reg.
The Nameservers will state where to look for the website files (default Nameservers if hosting at the registrar). The MX records will jump in and tell the domain “look over here at this server for any email accounts”.
What should I do if my domain name and email accounts are in one location but my website is hosted elsewhere?
The situation could be that your domain name and email accounts are hosted in one location but your website hosting is elsewhere. In this case, the nameservers should be left as default. You would need to add something called an A record. This will tell the domain name (when searched for in a browser) that the location of the website files are at another server location. This A record is an IP address of the server hosting the website files. Your website host can provide this for you.
This is something that you would enter in the dashboard or control panel at your domain registrar location (the place where you purchased your domain name).
What records do I need to change if my website hosting and emails are hosted away from my domain name?
The next scenario is that you have your domain purchased at a registrar like 123-REG and your website hosting and email hosting in another location. You would be required to change the Nameservers at the registrar from the default Nameservers. You would change them to those of the website and email hosting provider which should be provided on request. This will tell the domain name to look over to the other server for both website files and email accounts.
No MX record entries or A record entries would be needed here in this setup. The hosting provider for the website and email accounts should have everything in place already.
My domain name, hosting and emails are all separate, what DNS settings do I need to change?
The last common scenario. Your domain is registered in one location, your website hosting is in another place and finally your email accounts are hosted in yet another location. In these circumstances you would need to leave the Nameservers as default at your registrar. Then you would add MX entry records and also an A record.
Its not always as simple as just building your own website thanks to DNS Records!
As you can see its not as straightforward as it sounds. But… with a little knowledge and understanding of how things work you should be setup in no time. There are many more DNS Records to learn. As well as many more setup scenarios that would require other changes and more complex logistics. We’ll go into all that another time!
For now we hope this helps resolve any issues you may have or answer some questions that were bothering you!