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Understanding how DNS, Name Servers, and MX records work

Posted on 2007-11-29
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Hello,

Can someone explain to me how the DNS, Name servers, and MX records work with a Domain Registrar? I have registered with Network Solutions a domain name and I have a couple of questions

1) If I decide to host the website on my own equipment, do I have to use my ISP's name servers or can I go into Network Solutions and use their name servers pointing the website to my static IP address?

2) I have looked at 3rd party hosting companies and they all want me to go into Network Solutions and point my Nameservers to them. Why is that? Why can't I just go into Network Solutions and point the ipaddress to my 3rd party hosting company?

3) Are nameservers and DNS essentially the same thing?

4) Is it standard protocol that whoever host my website needs to host the DNS as well?

5) I am hosting my own exchange box. So if I understand it correctly, just because a 3rd party company may be hosting my website and nameservers, I can tell them to change the MX records to point to my static ip for the Exchange server. Is this correct?

Thanks for the help in educating me...
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Question by:XceedIT
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by:wingatesl
wingatesl earned 50 total points
ID: 20379815
1) If I decide to host the website on my own equipment, do I have to use my ISP's name servers or can I go into Network Solutions and use their name servers pointing the website to my static IP address?
       Definitely, you can use any DNS servers you like. Network solutions makes it pretty easy. I try to stay away from ISPs DNS

2) I have looked at 3rd party hosting companies and they all want me to go into Network Solutions and point my Nameservers to them. Why is that? Why can't I just go into Network Solutions and point the ipaddress to my 3rd party hosting company?
      They look at it from a service point of view, if they have to support you it is easier when they also control the DNS.

3) Are nameservers and DNS essentially the same thing?
       Identical

4) Is it standard protocol that whoever host my website needs to host the DNS as well?    
       Not at all. Lots of hosting providers don't touch DNS at all

5) I am hosting my own exchange box. So if I understand it correctly, just because a 3rd party company may be hosting my website and nameservers, I can tell them to change the MX records to point to my static ip for the Exchange server. Is this correct?
        Correct, but this means someone else is responsible for the Mail records, so if you ISP changes you have to log service requests instead of makng the changes yourself. I do not like being at the whim of someone else for critical services like that. DNS is pretty easy, you seem to have a grasp of the basic concepts. You should have no problems managing it with your NetSol account

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tkfast earned 75 total points
ID: 20379820
1) If I decide to host the website on my own equipment, do I have to use my ISP's name servers or can I go into Network Solutions and use their name servers pointing the website to my static IP address?

- You would have to contact your local isp if you want them to have the dns records.  I don't traditionally use other peoples Name server (DNS) but there is nothing wrong with it.  I don't use Network Solutions but Im sure on there website you can change some of the dns A record so it points to your server.  

www.yourdomain.com.         A            ipaddress.xxx.xxx.xxx
yourdomainname. A ipaddress.xxx.xxx.xxx

2) I have looked at 3rd party hosting companies and they all want me to go into Network Solutions and point my Name servers to them. Why is that? Why can't I just go into Network Solutions and point the ipaddress to my 3rd party hosting company?

The reason commonly is you would have to set all the settings on Network solutions and if you point the dns to the hosting company they can change ip's and the names still work and you don't have to keep updating network solutions, you would need to set other setting like MX records if you want mail.  And webmail.yourdomainmail.com or mail.yourdomainname.com


3) Are nameservers and DNS essentially the same thing?

DNS = Domain Name System
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name_system

4) Is it standard protocol that whoever host my website needs to host the DNS as well?

- Its just easier on your hosting company but you don't have to you can easily point your mail to one hosting company and website to another its totally up to you but it is just easy for the hosting company so we don't have to deal with helping you set all the records on someone else's DNS servers.


5) I am hosting my own exchange box. So if I understand it correctly, just because a 3rd party company may be hosting my website and nameservers, I can tell them to change the MX records to point to my static ip for the Exchange server. Is this correct?

- Yep you can point records and add as many records you want so absolutely you can do what ever you want with those records.  
Example of records.  

http://network-tools.com/default.asp?prog=dnsrec&host=google.com

(The TXT record you see if for SPAM (SPF Record) http://www.openspf.org/)

Have fun with you dns hope this helps a little.  
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by:XceedIT
ID: 20387087
Thank you for the quick responses. I have a few follow up questions...

1) If I host my website myself, can I use (1) static ip address for both the email and website, or is it better to have a static for each?

2) CNAME records. I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around this. From what I understand, CNAME records are alias, correct? In other words, the "www" that we commonly type is a CNAME to "mydomain.com".  Is a CNAME the same thing as a sub domain?

3) I guess what I am trying to get at from question 2 is, if my website is hosted by a third party company, I still want to be able to access OWA on my server that is in house. I want to be able to do this by opening a browser and typing "http://owa.mydomain.com" without it trying to redirect me to the website. Would I use a CNAME or a sub domain to accomplish this?
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by:tkfast
ID: 20387202
1) If I host my website myself, can I use (1) static ip address for both the email and website, or is it better to have a static for each?

Email uses:  Depends on what options you have setup on your email server
      POP3 - port 110
      IMAP - port 143
      SMTP - port 25
      Secure SMTP (SSMTP) - port 465
      Secure IMAP (IMAP4-SSL) - port 585
      IMAP4 over SSL (IMAPS) - port 993
      Secure POP3 (SSL-POP) - port 995

Web Sites commonly use
      HTTP - port 80, sometime port 8080
      HTTPS - 443

The only ready you need a second ip is if you want to have two devices you want to have the same port shared.  So yes you can have them both use the same IP.



2) CNAME records. I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around this. From what I understand, CNAME records are alias, correct? In other words, the "www" that we commonly type is a CNAME to "mydomain.com".  Is a CNAME the same thing as a sub domain?

Yep a CNAME is just an alias

Good Article explaining dns  http://www.debianhelp.co.uk/dnsrecords.htm

3) I guess what I am trying to get at from question 2 is, if my website is hosted by a third party company, I still want to be able to access OWA on my server that is in house. I want to be able to do this by opening a browser and typing "http://owa.mydomain.com" without it trying to redirect me to the website. Would I use a CNAME or a sub domain to accomplish this?

You make a CNAME record for OWA or a A record.  A record for owa.yourdoimain.com and have the ip as you OWA server.  you can use a CNAME if you want.  

Just think of DNS as a way to have a name point to a number and you can have CNAME records point to another alias if you want.  Just remember if you use lots of A records and you need to change the ip one day you have to make sure that you change in every A record as if you use CNAME records you just have to change the one A record that all the CNAMES point to.  
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