Since this is a long post with a lot of information, I’m going to cut through the chase and give a huge thumbs up for GoDaddy‘s recently released Premium DNS service. Whether your domain is registered through GoDaddy or not, this service brings reliable, secure name server services to the market at a very reasonable price. If you want to know why I’m so excited about it, you are going have to suffer through a bit of “You asked what time is it and I need to explain the history of the grandfather clock”. Still, there is a little bit for every website owner or blogger in this post… at least I hope!
Domains, Name Servers, and Hosting
One of the most important functions on the Internet is provided by an old, but reliable system called the Domain Name System. In short, it is the infrastructure that allows your computer, iPhone, or iPad to resolve the name of a website or email address to a cryptic set of data that includes Internet protocol (IP) addresses, port numbers, and services types.
Invented in 1983, the Domain Name System has expanded with the explosive growth of the Internet. Though I don’t have a hard count, I estimate it is now comprised of hundreds of thousands of name servers. Of course, they all need to work in coordination with each other. If the system isn’t working properly, your website or blog becomes inaccessible and your emails get returned. Of all of those servers that participate in the Domain Name System, not all of them are created equally.
As a consumer, there are three elements of your website or blog you need to understand. The first is your domain name which is the brand friendly identifier of your website. You can register a domain name through a registrar like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. The second is a name server which contains the records needed to translate where services like email and web hosting actually reside. In many cases, your domain registrar will also provide name server services to you; however, hosting companies like to have you switch to their servers as it helps to keep their support costs down. The third are services like web hosting or email.
As the founder of a high performance hosting company, one of the most shocking requests I get on a daily basis comes in the form of a new customer asking, “Can we use your name servers?”. My typical response is, “Of course you can but why would you want to do that?”. Unfortunately, website owners have been conditioned to simply use whatever name servers their hosting company tells them to. Still, domains and name servers have absolutely nothing to do with hosting and it is always my recommendation to keep a hard line of separation between the two. As a site owner, you want to maintain full control of your domain and the name servers. You also want to use the best service possible. Unfortunately, premium name server services generally cost more than the the budget of the average website or blog owner allows. That is, until GoDaddy recently got in the game bringing enterprise class DNS to the market for a few bucks a month with their Premium DNS Service.
What’s Different With Premium DNS from GoDaddy
GoDaddy has always provided name server services that have been reasonably fast and reliable. However, the only way you could use them was if you purchased your domain through GoDaddy. I actually buy all of my personal and company domains through GoDaddy. This is mostly because I like their service and support. Still, many people have purchased their domains from other quality registrars and do not want to go through the pain of transferring their domain just to get access to GoDaddy name servers. There is also a subset of consumers that just don’t resonate with GoDaddy’s marketing campaigns or the persona of their CEO. GoDaddy Premium DNS solves all of these problems as it is a true offsite DNS that even allows you the functionality to rebrand your name servers under your own domain. Non geek translation? You can use GoDaddy Premium DNS even if you didn’t buy your domain through them and you can personalize the brand of your servers so you don’t have to carry the GoDaddy brand.
Where Is Your Domain Registered and What Name Servers Are You Using?
This is an important question. So, I’m going to give you a few steps to go through. Record this information and tuck it away.
- Go to a “who is” tool like http://www.godaddy.com/whois and enter your domain name. These records will tell you the registrar of your domain name.
- Use an online name server lookup tool like http://network-tools.com/ to dump your name server records. The first entries will tell you what name servers you are using and what your records are.
Unfortunately, after you have this information, I have a small homework assignment for you. Just like you write down the account numbers and customer support numbers for your credit cards so you can cancel them if they are lost or stolen, you really need to be sure you have the login information for your domain registration account. You also need to know where you can get in and change your name server records should you have to move your hosting or email in an emergency. Last, you will need to return to “step 1” and look at the Who Is information again. It has three sections with contact information. The first was called the Registrant Information. If that does not have your name or your business name listed, get it changed. If it is a web developer or hosting company, technically they own your domain and you want to get that corrected as quick as possible.
GoDaddy Premium DNS Feature Review
Now that I’m past the history of the clock, let’s take a look at this new service! GoDaddy Premium DNS is built on a distributed infrastructure that offers a variety of features. These include:
- Distributed server network that publishes your name records like a content delivery network (CDN) serves your videos and images.
- An intuitive user interface that checks your work.
- Access to the service even if your domain is registered elsewhere
- DNS security features
- Vanity name server branding giving your whois records entries like NS1.YOURDOMAIN.COM.
- Sub user accounts so you can give your web developer access and have record of their changes.
- Templates for deploying new zones which is really handy if you have a lot of websites.
- 24 hour customer support where you are a few minutes away from having a patient human being walk you through setting up the service.
I really haven’t found a downside to this service as even the migration is fairly painless. If you already have your domain name registered at GoDaddy and use their base name servers, the upgrade is painless and you will not incur any downtime. If you have registered your domain else where or are using non-GoDaddy name servers, you will have to do some configuring on the GoDaddy side. Still, leverage their customer support to help you through the process.
No one ever thinks about name servers as it is a pretty geeky topic. Still, we get those occasional messages that our email was undeliverable or issues on our website ranging from “server not found” errors to slow connect times. Unfortunately, these hiccups often come back to issues with the domain name system and your name servers. For $3 a month you can consolidate and clean up your records and put the worries behind you.