12-04-2020 – Moving your DNS to a new provider
By: Eric McIntyre, Sr. Director of DNS Business Development at CloudfloorDNS
Moving your DNS to a new provider
Are you planning on moving your DNS to a new provider? Changing your DNS to a new company can seem scary but have no fear! Skip down to our steps on preparing to move DNS and actually making the move to a new DNS provider and this should help you understand what’s entailed.
It’s been just about 25 years since my career in IT turned into a career as a DNS provider. From the early days at TZO, a stint at Dyn and now CloudFloorDNS, there is one thing that stands out and that’s overall awareness. What I’m talking about is overall DNS Awareness – essentially understanding what DNS is, how DNS works, why DNS is important, and why it’s a critical Internet technology that you need to focus on if you care about the success of your online business.
Keep in mind we are talking about Authoritative DNS – where you would host a domain you own like Example.com and want to host a website, email server, Unified Communications, VOIP server, VPN, etc
Recursive DNS (OpenDNS, Google Public DNS) is another beast and Managed DNS providers focus on Authoritative DNS and that’s what we’ll be focusing on
It seemed that for many years, DNS as a whole has always been a mystery service that’s behind the scenes and very few knew what it was or really how it worked. Now that all seems to be changing and there is much more emphasis on the awareness of this critical technology that is literally the foundation to your online house/business. If DNS goes down, your online business goes down, plain and simple.
As more brick-and-mortar businesses move online they come to realize that any downtime is a serious business issue. As their online business grows, they become serious about uptime and DNS is a large portion of this stability. Cloud-based DNS can be deployed faster and at a fraction of the price of hardware, thus more interest in leveraging the cloud. This means more awareness and interest in DNS functionality such as low TTL and advanced services such as GEO DNS (geolocation of customers using DNS), Load Balancing and DNS Failover
Why move your Authoritative DNS?
When it comes to DNS providers, there are really two main types – Registrar / Web Hosting providers and Managed DNS / Enterprise DNS providers. Registrar or hosting providers typically only offer DNS because they have to – it supports their business model but typically doesn’t have the speed, reliability and features that Managed DNS providers offer. There’s a huge difference between the two, mainly in speed, reliability, functionality and support and most importantly, a SLA (service level agreement) for uptime. To break it down, here are just a few of the big benefits to moving to a managed DNS platform such as CloudFloorDNS and others:
SPEED – These days speed is of utmost importance and can help speed up your websites, apps and can also help you rank better in SEO. Let’s face it, these days everyone is impatient and fast DNS can get them to your website & apps faster, customers can checkout/order faster which increases customer satisfaction and sales benefit from all of these factors. Try DNSPerf.com for a list of Managed DNS providers and their global DNS speed
RELIABILITY – Probably the most critical aspect to DNS is being up and available. Managed DNS providers typically have large, globally distributed Anycast DNS platforms and DDoS mitigation in place and FOCUS on DNS as a whole, not on domain sales with DNS as an afterthought. Try DNSPerf.com for a list of Managed DNS providers and their global uptime
FEATURES – Managed DNS providers have a core focus on DNS and thus have many more features that businesses can leverage. Basic DNS features such as DNS Stats, API, low TTL, Bulk DNS updates, Secondary DNS, DNS Backups can make managing DNS faster and easier across many domains. Advanced Features such as GEO DNS can direct users to their closest and typically fastest server. DNS Failover can monitor a service, website or app and flip the DNS to a backup site/location if it fails and then move it back when it comes up. All of these types of features you will not find at GoDaddy, Reg123, Network Solutions and other basic DNS or “vanilla” DNS providers
SLA & SUPPORT – Having a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place and the availability to get support via phone and email 24/7/365 is yet another plus. Businesses need to be available at all hours and downtime is unacceptable and there should be an insurance policy that provides thresholds for performance and availability
Prepping your DNS for a move to the new Managed DNS provider
Very Important: If you use a Web, CMS or other hosting provider for your DNS please check with them first before doing anything as they may not allow external DNS hosting! If this is the case, your website or app may stop working if you move your DNS away. If so, look for another host that allows external DNS hosting
1 – Contact your prospective new DNS provider and tell them what you want to move over, and most importantly what you want to do (your DNS wish list let’s say) Most Managed DNS providers will ask how many domains you have, and what types of services you may want to add such as GEO DNS, DNS Failover, Web Forwarding and other special offerings they may have. This will help them provide a custom price if a package isn’t immediately available that suits your needs
2 – Gather all your domains, review where they are registered since you’ll need logins for each. This is where you make the final change and you must have these details to switch DNS providers
3 – Login to your current DNS provider and gather all your DNS zone files – Export each zone file to a BIND style text file if you can, this should be able to be imported into your new provider. If you can’t export from your current DNS provider, copy and paste all the records into a txt file or at a minimum, take screenshots of everything and transpose those into a txt file
4 – Ask your current and new DNS provider about AXFR zone transfers. Zone transfers make it easier to export and import DNS and reduces human error when moving DNS
5 – Review any special services or DNS records you may be using or will be using in the future. This is important when selecting a new provider to ensure they are compatible. Are you using DNSSEC? Are you using CAA records? DKIM records? How many queries per month is your DNS using? How many DNS records do you have in each zone? Are you using ALIAS records or HTTP/Web Redirect at your current provider? What about any monitoring or failover? Do you have any special support contracts or custom services that will stop working when you move?
All of the above items are critical in preparing for your DNS move and will ultimately make the switch go much easier.
Making the move to a new provider – How to Move your DNS
Moving your DNS can seem like a daunting task to someone that doesn’t know it inside and out, but it’s actually not that difficult if you take logical steps and prepare properly. You must take proper care when moving since it literally controls your whole online business – one mistake can be catastrophic – so it’s imperative that you chose a provider that can host your DNS and assist or at least review your DNS before the migration is finalized
1 – Setup the account with the new host and import your DNS zones using AXFR or import them using the new provider import tool. If you must, create them manually
2 – Institute an immediate freeze of DNS changes, or keep track of all changes made after import so you can add them to the new provider before you go live. This is critical to have a process here or you could end up with your DNS records out of sync
3 – Change SOA and NS records from old DNS provider to new DNS provider according to the new provider’s instructions and nameserver assignment. If you are migrating many domains you can see if they have bulk DNS editing tools available. This means you can then do a Find and Replace across many zones making your DNS migration much easier
4 – Review each DNS zone manually – checking SOA, NS, reviewing each zone visually, paying attention to records such as HTTP or Web Redirects, ALIAS records, CAA, TXT records and CNAMES. Depending on the records, the new provider may do things differently, this is where migration assistance comes in handy since this ensures the new provider
5 – Perform comparison tests – these can be done where you review each record in each zone using DNS tools such as dig or nslookup. Ask your new provider if they have tools such as this or if they can run them against your DNS before you change over completely to ensure all records match in the new DNS provider’s system
6 – Schedule the migration with your new DNS provider – let them know you’ll be switching over to give them the heads up. Some DNS providers such as CloudFloorDNS can assign an engineer to review your DNS before you make the switch and be available for immediate support should any questions or problems arise during the switch
7 – Make the DNS changes at the registrar for each domain you are moving. If you have Example.com at GoDaddy and pay GoDaddy for domain renewals, you need to make the DNS changes there. Typically, the registrar where you make the final DNS change is at your registrar or whoever you pay every year to renew the domain. Your new provider will have assigned you a set of DNS servers that you used in step 2 above, you should have those handy to copy into the clipboard and then simply add in the new name servers and remove the old ones. DNS changes typically will update fairly quickly depending on how fast the registrar updates their database. In most cases, in just a few minutes you should see the changes taking place using some DNS testing tools
7 – Check your changes using external DNS testing tools – External DNS testing tools can give you great visibility on DNS propagation around the world. These tools help you see the actual DNS changes to ensure your new DNS provider is now serving your DNS. We suggest tools like WhatsMyDNS.net, DNSChecker.Org and DNSPerf.com for their DNS propagation and testing tools.
That’s it in a nutshell – if you take these steps and plan ahead, making a DNS move to a new provider will be a breeze and you’ll have zero downtime and a whole new set of DNS expertise and features to help propel your online business toward future success.
Stay tuned for future posts about Moving your DNS to CloudFloorDNS from popular DNS providers such as GoDaddy, Dyn and others