I’m going techie today to help answer some questions I get periodically about how I manage DNS.
Imagine one day waking up and learning that your customers cannot access your website and your employees can’t access their Email. It happens all the time and it’s usually due to problems with DNS or Domain Name Services. DNS allows the world to locate services related to your domain name including your website and Email. It’s a system that is in place that allows us to use friendly and branded names like joehackman.com instead of numbers. There are two main components of DNS – your domain name registrar and your DNS servers. As you probably know the registrars are companies like Network Solutions and Godaddy, but there are many others available too. The DNS servers are specified by the registrar and are often the registrar themselves but that’s not always the best choice, I’ll get into more on that shortly.
Registrar – What can possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately lots of stuff can go wrong! For starters you could have your domain registration lapse due to a expired credit card. Or worse case someone could hack your domain registrar account and do whatever they want with your domain such as point it at a website that infects visitors will malware or a virus. This could have a huge impact on your reputation as you might imagine.
Best Practices – Domain Name Registrar
There are a few very important steps you can take to protect your domain name registration, I’ll give you the simple version and if you have questions about any of them use the comment section at the bottom of this blog post. Some best practices for Domain Name Registration:
- Use a firm you trust COMPLETELY or Preferably maintain your own Registrar account. Never register a domain name through a web hosting company and have them handle it all, these companies blow it from time to time and take you down with them.
- Use a reputable registrar to host your domain such as Network Solutions (I use their SRSPlus resale account for my domains – if you have more than a dozen or so domains you might consider using it as well to save money).
- Pay for extra years in advance so you don’t have to hassle with yearly registration charges and for a (potential/small) SEO Boost.
- Setup MULTIPLE calendar/delayed Email reminders about 90 days in advance of the renewal date. This is absolutely critical! You could even put something in the Email such as “Let’s not lose our domain name, it expires in 90 days @ Network Solutions if we don’t renew it!”
- Use a very secure password and store it securely, your reminder Email can also remind you where that password is stored even “Password is in the fire safe at the CEO’s house in the folder marked Work Stuff”.
- Make sure you maintain all Email accounts associated with all the users (administrative, registrant, technical, billing, etc) don’t let a staff change sink any important messages from your domain name registrar.
- Read and address any non-trivial messages you receive from your domain name registrar (credit card on file expiring, etc).
There are probably a number of other things you can do to get more out of your registration and plenty of things to look out for but if you follow the above steps you will probably be way ahead of the average person when it comes to management and protection of the domain name asset(s) at your company.
DNS Server Host – What can possibly go wrong?
The problems with DNS Server Hosting are very similar to the issues for a registrar account. The main difference is being that it is easier to recover from a problem with DNS Server Hosting. If you maintain your registrar account you can always make an emergency change in very short notice to resolve a problem. No-one wants to do that unless it’s absolutely necessary so it’s still best to adhere to some best practices.
Best Practices – DNS Server Hosting
To maintain the best possible DNS Server Hosting consider following these steps. I will share the abbreviated version here and please comment if you need further clarification.
- If you’re going to allow someone else to manage your DNS Server Hosting use only a company you trust completely to manage your DNS server hosting as if it was their own.
- Insist on a high end product that distributes the hosting over 5 or more regionally unique servers such as DNS Made Easy or Amazon Route 53 for the servers. These products have servers in different geographic locations in case there is an issue affecting the other regions. You can still access and make changes even when significant outages are affecting a large area.
- Maintain your billing contacts, account credentials and reminders the same way you handle the DNS registrar so you never miss an important renewal.
There are numerous other considerations for DNS Server Hosting, but if you follow these steps you will again be way ahead of the game. Most people do not take these issues into account until they experience a horrific scenario like the ones described in this article. Don’t be a victim of poor planning, your DNS matters a lot and there is much you can do to protect it from harm!