In this guide to registering domain names and changing DNS, I’ll show you how to keep control of DNS related systems.
I have worked with many people who sometimes lose control of their Domains and the associated DNS settings that are vital in delivering web services.
Changing DNS Settings – Domain Name Control
You control your domain name in several different places and it’s really important as it is used for a number of key IT functions as well as your websites address.
Buy your domain from a reputable, licensed seller who might also offer hosting and email services.
The global authority is called ICANN who have authority for all gTLD’s – (global Top Level Domains) like .com .org .net .info etc. In the UK the domain authority is an organisation called NOMINET who have authority for all second-tier UK specific domains like .co.uk or .gov.uk, etc.
When you buy a domain you are the registered keeper of the domain for a period of time and the seller has to perform some key functions for you (hence the charge). The most important function is the administrative control of the domain – who owns it.
The domain seller will register the domain to you, and add it to a default set of name servers (usually 2) with information about what the domain does (if anything).
Where Domain registration can go wrong
Check the following key things:
- Make sure you are the legal owner. You can check this using a whois lookup on Nominet or someone like Domaintools and change it if necessary.
- Only the existing owner can
- change the ownership to someone else
- transfer the domain to another provider
- renew it or change the contact information
- If you’re not the owner make sure you get it transferred by the current owner as soon as you can.
- If someone else buys the domain for you, make sure they list you as the registered owner (not themselves).
- Keep the contact information in the domain record up to date and accurate.
- Make sure you have a login to the domain control panel and keep it handy and safe.
- This is usually with the company that you bought it.
- You will normally need a user name and password as a minimum.
Changing DNS settings and domain name control
The domain name system (DNS) has 2 principal parts; the admin records (see above) and the DNS control which define how the domain name operates in technical terms.
IT systems will access a nearby DNS server to look up the information when they do tasks that need a domain name. For example, when you request a web page using a domain your browser must access DNS to find the server that hosts the site.
DNS records are also shared and propagated across lots of servers all over the world so that access to DNS records is quick and easy. So if you make a change to a DNS record it can take up to 48 hours before it works everywhere.
Name servers and the admin control might not be on the same system and this is a common cause of confusion when Changing DNS settings. For example, your domain admin might be with 123reg because you bought it from them but the name servers could have been moved to your web host instead.
How to keep your DNS in good shape
Start by making sure you can access the control panel for the domains admin (normally where you bought it from) and that you have ownership rights to control it. You’ll need a user name and password to access this and once in it, you should be able to find the place where you can change or transfer the name servers if necessary.
Once you can access this you should also be able to see which name servers are in use. Look for a menu item called DNS or Advanced DNS or DNS settings where you can see the current settings.
If the name servers are with another provider you will need access to that control panel to change anything. If you lose this or can’t log in you will not be able to change the DNS without moving the name servers elsewhere.
It is a good idea to keep the domain admin and name servers with the same provider. I do whenever it’s my choice.
NB: VERY IMPORTANT. Do not change any DNS settings unless you are very sure you know what you are doing. If you get it wrong your website might go down along with your email functions. Even if you’re experienced, take a screenshot or make a note of the current settings before you edit them. That way you can always change them back again if you mess it up. Some providers allow you to create a DNS record back up so that you can restore the settings if needed.
When you change your web host, move your website or change your email settings you will also need to change your DNS settings, so please make sure you keep good records and know how to access your DNS control panel.
I don’t usually recommend specific products or services as what suits one organisation doesn’t always work for another. I usually recommend people research the large range of services available and pick something that suits them.
But lots of people ask me what I use myself, so here goes:
Domains and Email
I use the same provider for managing and buying domains and for providing email services (but crucially not hosting) gandi.net.
I use Gandi because their domain prices are competitive (not the cheapest but pretty similar to most others). They are also brilliant at managing domains and have a good control panel. They also allow me to add other accounts for my customers so they can own and renew their domains themselves.
Gandi also offers very good email systems. They give you 2 free IMAP email boxes for any domain you buy, renew or move to them. You can add more email boxes for as little as £0.37 per box per month**. And £1.88 per month** will buy you a 50GB email box if you really need it.
Gandi’s support is excellent and quick and email boxes on email clients and phones are easy to set up.
NB: I do not use Gandi for Web Hosting. It’s a service they offer but, I just like to keep hosting, domains and email separate. Remember that DNS setup can be more complicated when not with the same provider.
This is really simple for me. I have used Dashlane password manager for about 6 or 7 years now and it’s fabulous as I have to store and sort out all my own system passwords but also lots of those for my customers and this tool really does the job for me. If you don’t like this one there are other great password manager tools out there. Please just get one so that you don’t lose control by forgetting or badly documenting user names and passwords.
** Prices correct at the end of 2020.