Site Operating Manual | The
ins and outs of DNS and how it affects your domain:
DNS and Name Servers:
This is an area that causes a great deal
of confusion among both webmasters and end-user clients. Before we go
any further, let's look at this quick analogy: DNS can be considered
something similar to a phone book. When you move from one location to
another, your last name stays the same, but your phone number may change.
In order to point your name to the new phone number, you must contact
the telephone service provider, which will assign you the new phone
number. In addition, they update all directory information databases
to reflect you as pointing to this new phone number.
DNS stands for "Domain Name Server." The domain name server
acts like a large telephone directory in that it's the master database,
which associates a domain name such as (http://www.mydomain.com) with
the appropriate IP number. Consider the IP number something similar
to a phone number: When someone calls http://www.starlightsite.com,
your ISP looks at the DNS server, and asks "how do I contact starlightsite.com?"
The DNS server responds, it can be found at: 18.104.22.168. As the
Internet understands it, this can be considered the phone number for
the server, which houses the http://www.starlightsite.com web site.
Where are all
of the DNS records kept?
This is slightly more complicated, but for the purpose of this overview,
we'll try to keep it as general as possible. There are 2 basic places
DNS records reside:
International Root name servers (13 exist throughout the world)
Your domain registrar, where your current DNS settings reside.
When you register/purchase your domain name on a particular "registrar's
name server," your DNS settings are kept on their server, and in
most cases point your domain to the Name Server of your hosting provider.
This Name Server is where the IP number (currently associated with your
domain name) resides.
The entire hierarchy is somewhat involved, but in short, the world Root
Name Servers can be considered the master listing of all DNS records,
and there are currently 13 of them in the world. These name servers
are where all the master DNS records are kept. The DNS server of your
ISP will typically query the Root Name Servers once every 24-hours.
This is how they update all of their DNS tables, which in turn, resolve
www requests to the IP number of the server they reside on.
Name Server settings, so your domain points to your Starlight Site account:
Your "Name Server Settings" must be updated to point to your
account on Starlight Site. You originally purchased your domain name
from a registrar, and this registrar is where your current DNS settings
reside. That is, unless you transferred your domain name to an alternate
registrar, in which case, you would control your DNS settings from there.
The registrar your domain resides on communicates your current DNS settings
with the International Root name servers, which in turn share this information
with ISP's, routers, and cache engines around the world. In essence,
it's like a worldwide directory that other computers can refer to when
they want to match a domain name with its associated IP number. This
IP number is how the particular server your website resides on is located.
Simply go to your domain registrar's web site, and look around for links
that point to something like "domain manager", "manage
domain," or something of that administrative nature. In your welcoming
email, you were sent DNS settings, which look similar to this example:
Most of the newer registers such as the (OPEN SRS) based entities have
turned this into a 5-minute process. You simply login to the registrar,
select 'manage domain' and you'll be presented with an option to update
your new DNS numbers. Contrary to popular belief, Network Solutions
also now provides an online interface to change these settings, so this
process with them is no longer as complicated as it use to be, however
it's still not as simple as the OPEN SRS based systems. If your
particular register does not provide a domain manager of some type,
then you'll need to send them a message requesting a change of DNS.
This is an unlikely scenario, as most every register now allows you
to manage your own domain settings from a web based interface.
Once you've accessed the "management interface" of your domain
name, look for a setting, which says "change or manage DNS settings."
In most cases, you can simply cut and paste the DNS settings we've sent
you directly into the spaces, which correspond to your DNS management
settings. Remember, the DNS settings we're displaying here are an "example."
The 3 to 4 day
propagation period - Understanding what happens during this time frame:
Remember what we talked about earlier in this chapter regarding the
shear size and scope of the worlds DNS system? In short, when you change
your DNS settings, these new settings must propagate throughout the
worlds DNS servers. It also means that every ISP (Internet Service Provider),
must update their DNS records to reflect these new changes, which in
most cases, is done automatically every 24 hours.
do the Root Name Servers receive their information from?
The Root Name Servers will query "domain registrars" several
times a day. Domain Registrars are entities such as Network Solutions,
and the newer OPEN SRS based systems. The Root Name Servers will gather
this information from the many registrars now in existence, and update
their master records accordingly. Now your ISP must access the Root
Name Servers, and update their DNS records, which reside on their 'local'
DNS server. This process is fully automated and most ISP's will check
the Root Name Servers for updates every 24-hours. Beware however, that
some lame ISP's will delay this process for as much as 2 to 4 days in
some cases. If that happens, it will no doubt cause additional confusion,
as everyone else will be reaching your new account on our servers except
you. This is because your ISP has not updated their DNS records, and
or have not cleared their DNS cache, which means they'll still be pointing
your domain name to your old server. If it's a new domain name you've
registered, then you'll receive a blank "Site Not Found" page.
DNS Cache and your
There is also the issue of DNS cache, which is something we won't go
into great detail about here, but here's the short version. Every time
you access a site from your ISP, they cache the URL, as well as its
associated IP number. If their network is properly setup, these DNS
cache records should "Expire" at least every 24-hours. If
they did not (which is often the case), you'll experience this: You
enter your http://www.mydomain.com
URL, and it keeps taking you back to your old server account.
In a large number of cases, it's the result of an ISP who "Did
Not" configure their servers to "Expire" the DNS cache
records at the appropriate intervals. Unfortunately, this adds additional
confusion to their clients, and especially the ones whom are trying
to point their domain name to a new server. Yes, it will make you want
to scream sometimes, however if you understand whom is actually at fault,
then you'll know who to scream at :)
The DNS propagation
process is not limited to ISP's!
HA.. Just when you thought you had it all figured out! Unfortunately,
there's more, folks. The Internet itself must update/clear its DNS cache
as well. When we say the Internet, we mean the numerous intermediate
"points of access" you're routed through before reaching your
final destination. For the most part, these intermediate points of access
consist of "Internet Routers" and "Internet Caching Engines."
These too, maintain their own DNS cache, which assists them in routing
traffic/resolving URL's to the correct destination IP's. Don't worry
though, as Internet routers are usually faster at clearing their DNS
cache than ISP's are.
What to expect
during this 2 to 4 day propagation period:
In most cases, the propagation process will take at least 48 hours to
complete. The first thing that happens is the "World Root Name
Servers" will check all of the various "Domain Registers for
updates. Ok, so now the Root Name Servers have done their job. The rest
of it is up to the many ISP providers who "should be" updating
their DNS records (at least every 24 hours), but a number of them will
that can be expected during the propagation time frame:
It's perfectly normal for strange things to happen within the 48-hour
propagation period, but sometimes longer. While we could provide a full
list of all the anomalies that can occur during the DNS propagation
period, we'll stick to some of the most common scenarios that most people
HELP! My friends can reach my new site, but
I'm still being directed to the OLD ONE!
This is a class case of your friends ISP (who did update their DNS records),
but yours unfortunately did not. As a result, your ISP is still pointing
your domain name to the old DNS record, which is your old hosting account.
Wait a couple of more days, and if it appears that everyone but you
can access your new account, then contact your ISP and tell them to
expire their old DNS cache records.
WOW! http://www.mydomain.com was taking me
to my new Starlight Site account just a minute ago, but when I try it
now, I'm being taken back to my old hosting account - what's up with
In all likelihood, your ISP may be in the process of clearing their
DNS cache, and or updating their local DNS server records. During this
small interval, it's normal to fluctuate between the new and old web
site, as the old DNS records may not have completely expired from their
cache yet. Give it another several hours and it should be fine.
HEY! My new site
comes up for me, but my friends are being directed to my old one!
Break out the coffee and donuts, and consider yourself lucky. Your ISP
is on the ball and updates DNS records/ clears DNS cache in short regular
intervals. Your friends may be using an ISP, which is not as fast, and
or efficient at doing so. The only remedy for this is time. Eventually,
the other ISP's DNS cache will expire and be replaced with the updated
What's going on with my email? When I try
to access it, I receive a "host does not exist" or a "cannot
authenticate" error message.
This can happen for a number of reasons, but in most cases, it's because
your new DNS records have not fully completed the propagation process
yet. Consequently, you may be trying to access your old email account
on your "old server", which you may have already cancelled,
or it's in a state of DNS flux, which means it points to the new server
one moment, and the next, points back to the old server.
Give it some more time and it will eventually settle down. In the meantime,
consider accessing email from your account using the WebMail based reader.
If your domain has not propagated as of yet, you can access your email
account via WebMail with your IP number. Example: http://22.214.171.124:2082/neomail/neomail.pl
This will allow you to access your default mailbox on your account.
Replace the IP number with the one we sent you, and do not remove the
:2082 port number in the URL.
Microsoft FrontPage will not accept a Username
and Password, or displays the error message (FrontPage Extensions Are
While you should be able to access FrontPage with your associated IP
number (until your domain is resolving to our servers), this is not
always the case. FrontPage can behave in a number of different ways
depending on which direction the wind is blowing. In some cases, it
will allow you to initiate an upload session, but upon asking for your
Username and Password, will not recognize them. If this happens, the
best thing to do is wait until your domain name is answering to our
servers. One thing we know for sure, is FrontPage will work without
much of a problem if you're using the full www.mydomain.com URL to manage
your site with. Feel free to try it with your IP, but we cannot guarantee
it will work.
It's been over a week. Everybody else can
access my new site except me!
Was your domain originally hosted by your ISP? If so, they may not have
deleted this entry in their DNS files. This results in you, and or anyone
else accessing the net from this "particular ISP" being directed
to your old web site on their servers. A number of ISP's forget this
small detail, which can result in weeks of utter confusion and frustration.
If this is happening to you, contact your ISP and make sure they've
made the necessary changes to their DNS records.
DNS update status (outside of your ISP):
In the event you're becoming impatient, and or are wondering if the
rest of the world outside of your ISP can access your new site, you
can proxy yourself to another network and test it there. In many cases,
you'll be surprised to see your site responding perfectly, yet when
you attempt it directly from your ISP's servers, it does not exist.
There are several services, which allow anonymous surfing across the
net. While this is not the intent here, they can be used for trouble
shooting domain resolution problems. How? Because they proxy you
through their network, which means your URL requests are controlled
by "their" DNS cache records. These services update/expire
their DNS cache far more often than ISP's, which makes them well suited
for testing your domain name through a network, which operates with
the latest DNS updates across the web.
To run this check, you can try accessing your site through one of these
Both of them allow you to enter a URL, and
proxy your request through their servers. If your site is accessible
from these servers, then chances are, your ISP has yet to expire their
old DNS cache records.
on your account during the DNS propagation period:
You can still work on your new account until your domain name finds
it way to our servers using your "IP Number", which
was included in your welcoming email. Your IP number is how your new
domain will be identified on our servers. Using it at this point will
provide a means for you to access your account, as well as test your
new site by using something like http:// 126.96.36.199/
(obviously you'd replace it with the IP number we sent you).
One easy way to check and see if your domain is answering to our servers
yet, is to create a file called "test.html" and
place it in your web directory. Keep checking the URL http://www.yourdomain.com/test.html
and see if it works. When it does, you'll know your domain name is answering
to your account on "our servers", and has been officially