When you buy a web hosting package you’re normally asked to update your domains nameservers to point to your new web hosting account. Nameservers translate into an IP address and tell the internet where your website is hosted.
Typically, when you buy a web hosting package, the Domain Name Records are managed as part of your web hosting account. But, we think that having your DNS records managed externally is much better.
- What are DNS Records and Nameservers?
- The Benefits of External DNS Management
- Where to Manage Your DNS Records
What are DNS Records and Nameservers?
When you buy a web hosting package your website files, email and databases are all held on a server. Every server has an IP address and this IP address is unique to each server. One server can have multiple IP addresses. The ‘internet’ needs to know this IP address in order to find your website. But, IP addresses are difficult to remember which is why we have domain names.
- IP addresses look something like 186.234.567.89
- Domain names look something like www.mydomainname.com
- Nameservers look something like ns1.domainname.com
In order to find your web hosting account through your domain name, the internet needs to translate this into an IP address to find your website. Here’s the quick description of how this works:
- You type your domain name into your web browser
- The internet now uses central databases (often knows as WHOIS) to find your domain nameservers. These nameservers translate into an IP address and tell the internet which server is holding your DNS records
- The internet now connects to the server where your DNS records are held. It’s looking for a record called an A records that tells the internet the IP address of the server where your website is held
- The internet now connects to the server holding your account and loads your website
This all happens in milliseconds and multiple lookups are made each time your website is loaded.
DNS records ae usually made up of the following core records:
- A Record– the major records that translate into an IP address. This normally tells the internet the IP address of your main domain name and subdomains
- CName Records– or canonical records sit over the top of other domains and tell the internet to load something else instead. For example, many people add the www part of an address as a CName records – it will be set up to say that www points to mydomain.com
- MX Records– tells the internet where your email addresses are managed from
- TXT records– or text records often hold important information about your domain
The Benefits of External DNS Management
If you choose to change hosting providers, you’ll need to update the domain nameservers. This is because your website files will now be on a new server. It can take up to 48 hours for all of the lookup databases to update this. This is known as propagation.
And, if a web server is attacked by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, the DNS server as well as the main server may be attacked.
To overcome these major challenges, you may want to consider having your DNS records managed externally to your server. We actually recommend this – in fact we force it as we don’t allow DNS management on the server.
It means that if a DDoS attack does occur, DNS provides are much better equipped to deal with these. It means that the traffic from the DDoS attack is massively reduced or doesn’t reach the server full stop. They can also block lots of bad or malicious traffic ever reaching your hosting account.
Secondly, if you do choose to move web hosting providers, rather than change the nameservers, you just update the IP address of the A Records. The benefit here is that the change normally takes effect immediately.
Also, you’ll need to recreate any additional records you’ve added. If you keep these in one place, there’s no need to re-add these.
You can in most cases manage the DNS records at registrar level (the place where you bought the domain name from). Just be careful though. If this is managed on the server where you hold your account, when your account closes, the DNS records are destroyed on this server.
Where to Manage Your DNS Records
There are lots of providers who can manage your DNS records. We highly recommend Cloudflare.
We’ve spoken about Cloudflare in lots of other posts, mainly from the benefit of using their CDN to improve your websites performance. But, even if you don’t use these features, you can add your website for free and just use their DNS Management function.
Take a look at this post to see how to add your website to Cloudflare.