DNS to Make a Sane Man Mad

I added a couple items to the bottom of the FAQs page based on a experience a customer recently had.

DNS can be painful. A when transferring your domain’s nameservers to a new host, and moving to a new registrar, it can get really tricky.

The short version is, if you want to bring your registration and hosting to Lower Ground, GREAT! But, take a few parts in separate steps to make things go more smoothly:

  1. Set up your hosting here at Lower Ground, get your website, mail accounts, DNS settings, etc as you’d like in our hosting panel.
  2. Once it’s set up and you’re ready to transition, go to your current domain registrar and change your domain’s nameservers to ns1.lowerground.net and ns2.lowerground.net.
  3. Here is where I recommend some waiting time, eventually the world’s DNS servers will update and your domain will be answered by Lower Ground.
  4. Once this has happened, come back and initiate your domain transfer.

Q: I’m transferring my domain registration AND my hosting to Lower Ground, but I’d like to avoid weird DNS downtime.
A: This can be a painful one, depending on how your existing DNS host reacts to the transfer, some cut off your DNS hosting immediately and this can result in the the world caching an empty zone for your domain.

The best way to avoid this would be to set up your hosting at Lower Ground first, then at your existing domain registrar, redirect the nameservers for your domain to Lower Ground’s. Once this has happened, and our name servers are responding to requests for your domain, and you’ve verified you have your hosting set the way you want, start your domain transfer. That way the rest of the internet already knows to look up your domain at our nameservers, and when the transfer happens, that remains the same.

Q: Why does that happen, anyway?
A: Many of the DNS servers out there cache things, sometimes for longer than the TTLs would call for. Why this is done is up to those individual networks. This includes the responses they get from the root servers, which is where domain registrars register where to send lookups for your domain to. If you initiate a transfer away from a service which binds your DNS server hosting to your registration, they may stop responding to DNS requests for your domain immediately, but normally during a transfer, the existing nameserver setting is preserved. Now the DNS servers the root zone tells other systems to find your domain with is saying ‘I don’t know what that is!’. Boom, dead domain.

While Lower Ground can quickly get your hosting set up and set the correct nameservers with the registrar, we’re at the mercy of all those other networks to refresh their caches before all corners of the net once again can reach your domain.