Managing Your Domain Using External DNS

Never thought it was possible to move from one host to another in 15 minutes?

Most people when they purchase a domain and hosting make use of the namservers provided by their web host. Instinctively they go and update the nameservers at the registrar and then wait for up to 72 hours for the domain to move from one server to the other.

Most customers describe this delay as some of the most stressful time in their hosting experience. During that time most people worry about emails being missed, their site being down and basically the unknown. What causes the most stress I think, is the host, registrar and end-user’s lack of control over speeding up the process.

Okay I get it, now what?

I would definitely suggest using an External DNS service for any domain you own. With an external DNS service you use their nameservers once and when you choose to move from one server to another, you simply update your IP and the change is done in usually under 15 minutes.

The two that I have used in the past are:

  • DNS Made Easy – This is a paid service with a 100% up time. They provide exceptional DNS services with great support. The user interface is very easy to use but provides a lot of options. Price per year is $14.95 USD for up to 3 domains.
  • ZoneEdit – This is a free service with a spotty up time history (remember you get what you pay for). They provide okay DNS services with little to no support. The user interface is difficult to use yet provides the same options as DNS Made Easy. Price per year is Free for up to 5 domains.

Have you ever used a Managed DNS service before? How would you rate them?

This post was guest blogged by Gary Jones from BlueFur.com. BlueFur provides Dedicated Servers in Canada like the one that runs John Chow’s site.


59 thoughts on “Managing Your Domain Using External DNS”

  1. Erik Karey says:

    Sounds like a great idea. I’m actually moving one of my large sites in the coming days (as soon as the dedicated server is put online) and will end up waiting for the DNS to change over. I think I will end up using an external service.

    Thanks Gary!

    1. Gary Jones says:

      You should also ask your current host to update your DNS Zone TTL down to 15 minutes.

      1. Debo Hobo says:

        Hey Gary I was just over at your blog, great job, very inspiring. 😈

        1. don’t we all do it nowadays

  2. Nathan says:

    G8 idea! This will be very useful for me!

  3. Angel says:

    Who is Gary Jones?

    1. Gary Jones says:

      I am from BlueFur.com :mrgreen:

      1. Debo Hobo says:

        Yup and he has a Blur Furry background on his blog. It’s pretty cool! 😈

        1. Glen Allsopp says:

          Looks like it could be a bluefur cap aswell 😆

        2. shman says:

          🙂 very nice

  4. Jeff says:

    Thats awesome, I will totally give this a try next time I need to change servers.

    Thanks John

  5. David says:

    So is DNS a host or just a service to transfer your website to another web hosting service?

      1. Debo Hobo says:

        Great thanks for that, I need it too. 🙄

  6. I still don’t get why they say it takes 72 hours, the dozens of times I’ve had to make DNS changes it never takes more than a day to propagate everywhere (and yes, I will usually ask friends on IM who live in places like China, Australia, Belize, and even South Africa if changes have been made for them)

    1. Gary Jones says:

      There are some ISP’s that don’t update daily. It’s not always a location thing but more a local ISP policy thing.

      1. True, but if people in South Africa and Belize can get DNS updates while people in other areas can’t, then something is screwed up :mrgreen:

        1. Gary Jones says:

          I agree and is one of the questions I ask my ISP before choosing one.

  7. This seems like a nice fix, but I haven’t had a problem with DNS updating up to 72 hours in like 8-9 years. In face I moved 30-odd web sites last month from one host to another, and the dns was updated in less than 5-8 minutes in most cases. Maybe this was due to the fact that I host all domain names at goDaddy, but I’ve never had a problem with DNS updating since at least the year 2000.

    1. Glen Allsopp says:

      I know its rare but it happens to me sometimes when im setting up new domains, sometimes up to 48 hours which can be really annoying 👿

  8. Mike Panic says:

    The last time I moved a site from one host to another it cached in less then 2 hours.

    1. dcr says:

      I haven’t had any problems either. Plus, I usually keep the web pages on the old server until the new server address has propagated. That way, even if people have the old DNS IP cached, they will still reach my site.

      1. Geedos says:

        Good idea and probably the safest bet when you’re making a move.

        It would appear that a lot of people don’t do this though and suffer the consequences.

      2. Gary Jones says:

        This is okay if your site is still online. I spoke with a customer today who said their site was down for 10 days and is still down. They are obvious in a panic to get the site back up and wanted propagation to take 15 minutes. The problem is they have to wait for it to finish before they can see their site.

        If they had of used a Managed DNS service they could have had their site moved in 15 minutes.

    2. shman says:

      For me it was similar time. Not a big problem with good hosting provider.

  9. I have used ultraDNS for my Search Engine back in the day and it’s a life saver … the site was high traffic and I had a server go down … had a new server up in 15 minutes … changed the ttl on the domain to 5 minutes and we were back up and running in a total of 25 minutes … with a complete server crash! If you need up time … you have to use a external dns provider!

    Darin

  10. Debo Hobo says:

    No, I have not used an External DNS.

  11. Dave Ward says:

    I use DNSPark for one of my domains. It’s free, up to certain limits, and I’ve yet to have experienced any downtime.

  12. Hi All,

    Another cool idea is dyndns, basically is a linking service to link to your dynamic ip so that you may host your own DNS.

    Here are some of the cool features:

    * Hostnames in 68 domains
    * Ability to create wildcards such as *.yourhost.dyndns.org that points to yourhost.dyndns.org
    * Offline URL redirection
    * MX records, allowing for flexible e-mail configurations
    * Clients for a wide variety of platforms
    * An open, non-proprietary update interface
    * Almost instantaneous DNS propagation time
    * Free, industry leading e-mail support
    * 5 DNS servers in 4 redundant tier-1 datacenters around the globe

    You may want to check out: http://www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns/

  13. Chuck Brown says:

    I had a conversation on this topic with a knowledgable friend last week. I had intended to pursue this sort of setup. But pointed out that nothing in this setup addresses the real culprits…your local ISPs cache. That’s why I can make a change and see it take effect in 5 minutes on my system, whereas someone 3 streets down on a different ISP might not see it until tomorrow. And none of this addresses the fact that IE comes with caching turned on, and most people don’t know to turn it off if they want to see exactly what their page looks like every time. After pondering all that, I decided not to go this route.

  14. I’m in the process of migrating 20 domains at the moment. I follow a fairly simple set pattern, create domain, create mail users, double check all settings against old host, create backup of live site, make nameserver changes, wait for propogation, upload from backup to new host. If only hosts delivered on their uptime promises then I wouldn’t have to go through this crap.

  15. Jay Tillery says:

    I’ve never had a problem with waiting for a domain to resolve after changing it from one host to another. Thats probably because when it comes to my sites or my clients site I use the best of everything. What I usually do is set up dns records on my server first, then swap my name server values over. This has always worked for me and it never fails.

  16. Excellent tip. As site grow, they need to switch servers. Being able to do it painlessly is worth $15 a year!

    One Man. One Year. $100,000 online. How’s he doing it?
    http://www.oneyeargoal.com

  17. Graham says:

    I’ve sure had this problem before. This is a very good idea.

    JOHN CHOW ROCKS

  18. Susan says:

    John

    Hey great post as usual. Thanks for the info.

    Susan
    http://www.susanvlz.blogspot.com

  19. I Used to use ZoneEdit back like 3-4 years ago when i had a relatively big portfolio of domain names and it is a good free (it has even paid tho) service for DNS management.

    Now i actually use the registrars nameserver (eNom is my registrar) which it works really smoothely, and NS propagate usually within 3-6 hours (in most cases to me). Anyway, using this method for saving downtime it is one (but not the only) good method.

  20. Glen Allsopp says:

    Seems like a pretty random topic

    UPDATE: Ah hes from the hosting company you are promoting 😎

  21. Chad Everett says:

    Though your ISP’s cache can definitely affect you (or, perhaps, your visitors), using an external DNS provider still makes a ton of sense.

    Even if everything is just peachy (and let’s face it – everything is not going to be just peachy), there will be a time when you want to switch providers. Keeping your DNS records somewhere other than your host or your registrar makes that process as close to painless as it can be.

    And external DNS providers also provide a lower TTL, as mentioned. Chances are that even if you set a lower TTL value, ISPs around the world won’t respect it – but there are plenty of folks who will.

    If you are investing in a domain and a hosting account, spend the few bucks it takes and get a decent external DNS provider (I use DNS Made Easy myself). Between the extra uptime and the benefit of being able to really take control of your DNS records, you won’t regret it.

  22. Amit says:

    Howdy All,

    If I may add my two cents, I’d be a bit cautious and suspect about any provider that claims 100% uptime.

    Check out this Wikipedia article for a look behind ‘five nines’ or 99.9999% uptime: Myth of the nines.

    I’ve used ZoneEdit. Never had any issues (that I’ve been aware of). However, the interface is not the easiest, but then again, you get what you pay for.

    Cheers.

    1. Gary Jones says:

      DNS Made Easy has documented proof that they have been up 100%. If you don’t believe them you should call them on it. 😉

      1. Amit says:

        Hi Gary,

        I’m not saying that they don’t offer 100% uptime, I’m just saying 100% uptime is sometimes hard to believe.

        In the Wikipedia article I linked to earlier, 90% uptime equates to roughly 36.5 days downtime during the year. 99.999% uptime is equivalent to 31.5 seconds of downtime pear year.

        Their claim of 100% uptime means their system/platform experiences no downtime whatsoever. This is a very impressive claim, one that other service providers should be envious of.

        Can you imagine having a personal computer with 99.999% uptime, or your car, or airlines? Life would be good.

        So, assuming that their claim is 100% accurate 😉 (get it?) it means they’ve got one helluva decent setup. Probably all sorts of redundancy, generators, backups, standby servers, clusters, etcetera.

        However, this may also mean that their system/platform as a whole, and not individuals servers on their network, are what represents the 100% uptime claim they make.

        In the end, if they’re able to do it, then more power to them. It’s the customer that benefits at the end of the day.

        Cheers.

        1. shman says:

          Their servers must be expensive.

  23. Amit says:

    Hi,

    An external DNS provider is a always a safe bet.

    However, it means another ‘entity’ to deal with. A single-provider is nice for those who aren’t interested in the nitty-gritty and who are willing to give up a little control for a hassle-free experience.

    Cheers.

  24. Free 3gp says:

    Does anybody know editdns.net?

  25. Christoph says:

    There is not really a need to pay for external DNS as some Domain Registries offer that service for free.

    Key – as mentioned before – should really be a combination of steps. The TTL value should be reduced to 15 minutes about a week before the actual move happens. Why? It kinda forces the shorter time to anyone who requested the DNS record and maybe received the IP information with a week’s worth of TTL. Example: somebody looked at your site on Monday. TTL value = 1 week. On Tuesday you change the TTL value to 15 minutes. On Wednesday you move the site. Guess what – worst case scenario it will take another 5 days before the visitor from Monday gets to your new side. There are a lot things that come into play, but if you’re really wanna be safe – change the TTL value a week before you intend to move your website.

    Christoph

  26. Roosh says:

    Sometimes it takes just a few hours to change DNS. Only time it takes more than a day is if you update it on the weekend.

  27. Geedos says:

    It’s a small price to pay for added peace of mind and if you can put up with having to deal with another “entity” then it should be a no brainer really.

    Thanks for the info.

  28. It sounds like this is worth the money.. if.. it will save you headaches..

  29. When I was using Network Solutions to host my domain, they would fix problems within 30 minutes of talking to them, which occurred after being on hold for about 20 minutes. They’re probably the most expensive domain registrar, but they provide very good service. You get what you pay for.

  30. Erik says:

    I’m able to confirm this, I had to switch hosting-providers a couple of weeks ago. The domain was a main mail-hup and I was very concerned about the “allow up to 72 hours for updates”. I had to do the switch anyway, but the domain was at a registrar and not with the former hosting-provider. Worked like a charm, about two hours later everything was back to normal, the domain started to resolve correctly (on and off, though) after 4 minutes. (Yes, I used a stopwatch, so?).

  31. Tom says:

    You have it all wrong.

    The 3 day change is if you are changing your nameserver host. If you are simply updating your record, that can go live immediately. Let me explain.

    Let’s say your records are being hosted at ns1.domain1.com and ns2.domain2.com

    If you want to change to ns1.domain2.com and ns2.domain2.com, that will take several days. The trick is to have your host records setup at both places! This makes the transfer easy and seemless.

    Also, host record changes can be mitigated by adjust your TTL setting in dns. Normally, for all the domains I host, I have the TTL set for 24 hours. This is a nice balance between changes and overloading the dns server. Now if a customer wants to make a change, I (or they) can adjust the TTL value to say 5 minutes. This will cause the values to expire out of everyone on the Internets dns cache each 5 minutes(assuming the visited your site withing the ttl period).

    Please contact me at my published email address if you are looking for reliable and cost effective web, dns, email hosting.

    1. Gary Jones says:

      I assure you I do not have it all wrong. 😆

      If you move from one host to another and change your nameservers it can take up to 72 hours.

      Again your solution works okay if both your old and new server are online and you had the foresight to update your TTL. If the old server is down you can’t make that change and will have to wait 72 hours.

  32. Mybloggo says:

    Great idea! This will be very useful for me!

  33. HMTKSteve says:

    I use godaddy for registering my domains and I use their DNS services as well. I’ve never had a problem using them.

  34. Cristian says:

    Why not use both?

    Change DNS to ZoneEdit at the registrar while on the original webhost.

    After it’s updated, you will be on the same host, so now move your data and update ZoneEdit to point to the new host and point the registrar to the new host too.

    When the registrar updates it’s records, you will be on the new host so no downtime.

  35. When I would have to move than I move site and once the DNS is propagated I change entry with domain name registrar.

  36. Kit says:

    Why not using the DNS service provided by the domain registrar (assuming your domain registration comes with DNS service)?

    If you know how DNS works, but the domain registration didn’t come with DNS service, and yet you don’t want to pay extra for that, I’d suggest using EveryDNS @ http://www.everydns.net
    Compare to ZoneEdit, EveryDNS has a better user interface.

  37. So why do you promote those two DNS services here, pretending they would help in moving sites quick.

    As some others above commented all you need is a 15 minute TTL.

    All bit hosters have DNS zone editors, i.e. Softlayer, The Planet, etc. where you can do what those “external DNS companies” do.

    When I moved servers – and I moved A LOT away from the planet in the last months – I just point THEIR dns to my new hosts and when that has happened, I create a new DNS entry at the new host … just to make sure I got all things together… but that wouldnt be necessary actually

    best christoph

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