Some great advice from the design sage John McWade from Before & After Magazine
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Before Authorizing Your Domain’s DNS/ Name Server Change
- Back up your email. We strongly recommend you install a POP email client on your local PC or Mac and download all the emails from your existing account before a service transfer. If you use a POP client like MS Outlook this means that copies of your emails are stored on your local PC or Mac. If you manage all your email using a Web Mail application this means that all your email and email folders are stored on your current Web server. Be aware that when a DNS change is complete all those emails and folders in your Web mail account will be irrevocably lost during the change process. If you do use Web based mail, please insure that you download any emails or folders you wish preserved. One option is to download your email from your Web account using a POP client like MS Outlook or Apple Mail. If you don’t have a POP client Mozilla Thunderbird can be downloaded here for no charge.
- Insure that your existing email accounts (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) are set up on your new mail servers prior to the DNS change so that as soon as the change is complete your emails will be received by your new mail server.
- If applicable, insure that you have the Website you want to be displayed at your domain installed and ready on your new hosting account.
- Understand that while most DNS changes are completed within 24 hours they can take longer (as explained in more detail below).
- Understand that while most DNS changes result in no or nominal interruptions in your Website access and email service they can result in interruptions that last longer (explained in more detail below).
- Understand that when the DNS changes are submitted, the process is completely in the hands of the top-level domain registers and numerous backbone and secondary DNS servers and there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process once changes are submitted.
Understanding What Happens During and After DNS / Name Server Changes
Initiating this DNS change with a domain register may affect the hosting, DNS servers, and email servers associated your domain. This means that when the transfer process is complete:
1. When your domain name is entered in a browser, it will display the Website installed at on your new hosting account; the content of your old hosting account will not be displayed or accessible using your domain name. If you have an active site at your domain, this means prior to authorizing this DNS change you must insure that your new hosting server displays the site you want your visitors to see. This of course does not apply if you currently are not displaying a Website at your domain.
2. When someone sends you an email, that email will be routed to a new mail server; the content of your old mail server will no longer be accessible. This means that you can only retrieve your domain’s email by going to the new URL we provide for Web mail and, if using MS Outlook or another POP client, by entering the new account information (such as your POP and SMTP server addresses) provided by us or your new service provider.
When a DNS change is submitted, typically the changes take place within 24 hours; meaning that the Website (if applicable) on your new hosting account appears when your domain is entered in a Web browser and you view and send email using your new accounts mail settings. While 24 hours is typical, there is no set or guaranteed time frame the changes will be finalized. The changes can take a number of days and, very infrequently, up to 7 days to complete.
Please be aware that once the DNS changes are submitted with your current DNS service provider, the process is completely in the hands of third parties and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to expedite the change process (called propagation). DNS propagation is a complex process of updating top-level index records, International Root Name Servers, ISP’s, Internet Backbone Service Providers and even the internal routers or servers of your own company (if applicable).
As stated, the vast majority of DNS name changes are complete within 24 hours or less. However, you must understand and accept the possibility that your domain name server change may take longer.
Potential Temporary Service Interruptions During a DNS / Name Server Change Process
Typically, DNS changes occur sooner rather than later and provide a seamless and often transparent transition for site users. If the Website installed on your new hosting account prior to the DNS change is an exact duplication of the site on your old hosting account, it’s likely your site visitors will never know any changes have taken place. However, it is not uncommon for a period of seemingly odd or unpredictable behavior to occur during the change process, such as your site not appearing, your new site appearing then reverting back to your old site, etc. If this occurs it is temporary and is manifesting only because of the series of complex record changes that are taking place behind the scene.
For email, you will know your DNS change is complete (or nearly complete) when you find your current POP client or Web mail settings no longer work. You will then use your new email server access instructions and soon be able to send and view email using your same email address associated with your domain (note: new accounts with matching addresses have to be manually set up on your new mail servers first). With Email, even in best case scenarios, there is often a brief period (usually a few hours) when your email address will not work and those who send email to your address may get it returned.
If any of these behaviors are experienced with your Website and Email, they may manifest sporadically during the update process, which as mentioned before is typically lasts 24 hours or less but can take longer.
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Infographic by MDG Advertising