If you're migrating your website to a new hosting provider, you're probably going to have to deal with DNS. This can be intimidating - especially for those unfamiliar with the process. The best option is to ensure that whoever is going to be making these changes knows what they're doing to avoid issues. That said, you can still successfully migrate a website AND avoid DNS issues if you know what to look out for!
Let's start by defining DNS and some of the terms we might run into throughout this process. DNS stands for Domain Name System and it's commonly referred to as the "phone book of the internet". Essentially, it's a tool to help translate a domain name like google.com into an IP address for a web server. DNS is the reason that you don't need to type in a complicated IP address like "184.108.40.206" - which is one of the (current) IP addresses for google.com
It also helps determine things like where to route e-mails that go to your domain and helps companies verify domain name ownership for things like analytics services.
DNS settings for a domain are made up of different entries called "records". There are tons of different types of records, with the main ones being: Nameservers, Address or A Record, CNAME, MX, and TXT. Let's quickly break these all down.
All DNS records are made up of three parts:
The Name/Host - typically either @ for a global setting or another value for a subdomain;
The Type, the Value/Destination - where the record actually points to;
And the TTL, or Time to Live.
MX records have an additional part called "priority." This lets mail servers have fallbacks in case one of their servers is down or has stopped working.
In a super easy migration, the only DNS setting that will need to be changed is the A-Record. Simply find the IP address for your new website host and put that into your domain's A-Record. Now you're off to the races. Unfortunately, it's not always this easy. What if I'm also needing to change nameservers?
In a situation where you're migrating your DNS provider to somewhere else and need to change your nameservers, things get a LOT more complicated. This is where email systems will go down for an entire company with no warning. I've made this mistake before, and I know most other web developers out there have made it too! Sometimes without even realizing they did something wrong at first. In order to ensure you have no issues when migrating DNS providers, follow these 4 easy steps!
Start by getting the domain's current DNS information and writing EVERYTHING down, even if you don't initially think it's important. This includes any weird "autodiscover" or TXT records you're not familiar with.
Go to your new DNS provider. Most will allow you to add a domain before you actually change any DNS records. Once you've done that, input ALL of the DNS settings that you wrote down earlier. Remember - Because your NameServers are still pointing to the current/old DNS host, nothing you change here will have any effect on the actual domain yet!
First, confirmed both settings are EXACTLY the same in both DNS hosts. Then, go ahead and change your NameServers to the new DNS host. NameServers can take up to 48 hours to propagate globally. This means some people will be getting their DNS records from the new host, while some will be getting them from the old host. Once you've changed NameServers, Wait the full 48 hours before making any DNS changes to ensure there are no issues.
Go ahead and change your A-Record and any other records that need to be changed in your new host. Each record will have a TTL listed in seconds - this is how long the record should take to update everywhere.
And there you have it! 4 easy steps to make sure you don't run into any issues when migrating your domain to a new DNS host! If you're looking for someone to help manage your website, consider giving us a call - We'd love to work with you!