We Help You Understand Internet Services
In order to have a working website, you have to register your unique domain name, you have to point the name to an IP address (identified by a string of numbers) and you have store content (everything in your website) at that IP address. These different services are sometimes handled by the same provider but often by different ones.
While we can help you with all of these, you should understand that if you want to control your domain name registration, you can do so. You can take care of registering your domain name and pointing it to a server that we'll take care of for you. You, as a customer, have every right to be concerned about keeping control of your "intellectual property," e.g. your name (domain name), which might be trademarked.
Pick a Registrar to manage your domain name registration
A registrar will offer you the ability to register a new name or to mange an existing name. We have had a good experience using MyDomain to handle domain registrations we create and to point to where the DNS (Domain Name System) is handled. While MyDomain also provides DNS and hosting, we have generally used other providers for that. In the screen shot below you can see that the Name Servers are at MediaTemple. A simple click enables you to change to a different nameserver.
Pick a provider to manage your DNS
We generally, but not always, use MediaTemple for both managing DNS and hosting. A provider that can help you to handle your DNS separately from the other functions described, here is DynDNS. In this article we'll describe how we use MediaTemple for both DNS and hosting.
One of the things we like about MediaTemple is that they allow us to handle the complicated things that our clients want to avoid, while at the same time giving our clients increasing degrees of control as they become more comfortable. As a client of ours, you will have access to your "Plesk" control panel inside MediaTemple. There are many other things you can do yourself inside Plesk, but you would not be controlling the DNS yourself. Remember though, that by controlling your domain name registration, you can, if need be, change the name servers to a different provider where you have control.
Even though you will not see the following screen it is still helpful for you to understand how DNS Zone Files are managed and what they do.
Note that your mail server can also be on a totally different machine and be handled by another service provider. The "A Records" should point to the IP address where your web server is hosted. The "MX Record" should point to the IP address where your mail server is hosted. These can be the same or different.
Your DNS records get copied by DNS servers all over the internet. So, when someone types in yourdomain.com the IP address for "yourdomain.com" can be retrieved from any DNS server. In order to remain accurate those servers check back every so often (TTL) to see if you have made changes.
Time to Live (TTL)
TTL is the time that servers around the internet wait before checking back to see if you have made any changes to your DNS settings. This is important to understand when you're doing things like moving a web site from one provider to another (which thus uses a different IP address for your site). It is also important to know how to use this when switching between test and production servers.
Having a low TTL means that you can make a change to which IP address your using and servers all over the internet will update quickly, e.g. within 15 minutes. However, TTL is typically set at 24 hours, to avoid all the extra traffic and resulting stress on your server of everybody checking back more frequently. Also, some providers will not offer you controls for lowering the TTL and yet others will not let TTL go below 24 hours under any circumstances. So make sure you understand what you're doing and what your providers will allow.