One of the best practices when it comes to having ownership and control over your brand’s digital assets is to keep your hosting, email, domains and DNS separate.
Your Domain Name or Domain URL is the name and url address of your website. ex: www.yoursite.com. You purchase a domain through a registrar.
Your website is hosted on a server through a web hosting company at a specific IP address.
The DNS settings are what connect your domain name to the server where your website is hosted.
Getting this setup the right way will save you a lot of headaches, cost and hassle. We have moved several sites to new hosts, or upgraded existing sites to new servers. All without any downtime, without email breaking or not sending. No waiting 24-72 hours while our website 'switches over.'
We are able to do that because of the way our DNS settings are managed.
What are DNS Settings
DNS stands for Domain Name Server or Domain Name System. DNS matches website names to website (IP) addresses. Every domain that is registered has DNS records associated with it, which are used to manage your domain’s website address and email hosting settings.
How DNS records are stored & managed
DNS records use Name Servers (NS) to manage your dns settings and ‘point’ your domain URL to the IP address where your website is hosted.
When you want to go live with your site you need to change your DNS settings to point to your new web host.
You manage the email MX Records for your email provider, like G Suite (Google Apps) the same way. The email MX records are managed along with your Name Servers.
The name servers can be managed through your Registrar or with your web host. In some cases your host will also have an option for managing your MX records.
The best (and most flexible) solution is to manage your DNS settings, and MX records are through your registrar.
Here’s why and how it works.
Managing Name Server records through your web hosting company - Not Recommended
Some hosts may give you the option to point your domain name to their Name Servers (NS).
They will look something like this:
ns1.yourwebhost.com & ns2.yourwebhost.com
When you point the Name Servers to your web host, that means your host controls the DNS for your domain. That includes email even when it’s hosted with a third party service like G Suite.
When you switch Name Servers (NS), the time it takes to switch over to the new Name Servers can take between 24 - 72 hours. This is called ‘propagation.’
When your web host controls your DNS, it gives you less control and flexibility. I’ve seen a lot web hosting services recommend using their Name Servers rather than your Registrars. Many will tell you it’s better.
Managing your DNS settings through your Registrar - Recommended
The preferred way is to update the A Record/IP Address and CNAME with your registrar
An A Record maps a domain (yourdomain.com) directly to a web hosting server’s IP address. A CNAME, or Canonical Name record, is a record that points to another domain address rather than an IP address. Your host will have instructions for doing this.
Because the Name Servers and MX records are managed through your Registrar, modifying the DNS records gives you control and flexibility.
And it’s just as easy to do
Why controlling DNS settings from your Registrar is better
I mentioned above that when your host controls Name Servers, it can take between 24 - 72 hours to 'switch over.' That means both your site and email will be down during that period.
Changing the Name Server records for your domain can result in all kinds of broken things – specifically email. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you leave your name servers set as the registrar’s defaults if at all possible. Flywheel Hosting
When the Name Servers are controlled from your Registrar, there’s no need to change Name Servers. You simply update the A Record to ‘point’ at the new web host.
Modifying the A record is quick and easy, and the propagation takes much less time. From a few minutes to an hour depending on your TTL settings (see examples in the images below).
In addition, when your email MX records are set at your Registrar, they are completely independent of your website settings.
That means when you switch web hosts, your email keeps on operating.
At some point you will most likely switch web hosting services or upgrade your hosting with the same provider. When your DNS and MX records are separate from the hosting servers, it makes the transition much easier.
We’ve done this several times with our sites without downtime.
Here are some examples.
The Be MYDO site hosted at Flywheel and Hover is the Registrar
- A Record pointing to website
- MX Records for GSuite Custom Email
- SPF records for Helpcout, Mandrill and MailChimp
- Custom Domain Key Authentication for MailChimp
- Custom Domain Key Authentication for Mandrill
- Custom Domain Keys Authentication for Helpscout
- CNAME Record pointing to website
You can see in the images that we also have Custom Domain Authentication (custom domain keys & SPF Records) for any app we use to send emails for better deliverability.
When your DNS settings are managed from your web hosting company, you may not be able to do this.