Separate your registrar from your DNS provider

This is targeted at people who know how to set up websites and DNS and such, so it assumes some technical knowledge on the readers behalf.

I think many people are not aware that the provider that lets you register domains and pay for domain renewals (the registrar) is separate really a separate service from hosting your DNS configurations (which you do at a DNS provider), because they are so often combined.

I base this assumption on the fact that I wasn’t really clear on this until I decided to move my DNS hosting from a company with horrendous and unprofessional customer handling.

That I went through this, actually made me appreciate keeping hosting, registrars and DNS configurations separate.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the separation of services, here’s a quick rundown of how it works (which will give nightmares to those types who really understand these things in-depth):

  • Your registrar takes care of registering domains, billing you and generally maintaining  a record of ownership for the domain. They also keep track of ONE piece of technical information for a domain: Which nameservers are keeping track of the domains DNS configuration.
  • Your DNS provider takes care of resolving all the domains and subdomains (and so on) into IP adresses. They run the nameservers that your registrar are pointing at, and they point onwards to the machine that is actually running your website.
  • Your hosting provider takes care of keeping a machine running with one or more of the IPs that your DNS provider is pointing at.

Here’s why I enjoy having these functions placed with separate providers:

  1. I can change registrars without having to move all my (complicated) DNS configurations to a new service. If someone can provide domain renewals for me cheaper, I can move to them without much hassle. No downtime.
  2. I can change hosting providers without having to move registrars or DNS providers. I can move all my websites over, and then just change my DNS configuration to point at the new server. Little to no downtime.
  3. I can change DNS providers by painstakingly moving all my configuations over to a new nameserver, but keeping the nameserver record at my registrar the same, and then change the nameserver record when I’ve set up everything. No downtime.
  4. I can choose the superior registrar, the superior DNS provider and the superior hosting provider, without having to compromise on any of them, since they are not bundled together.
You pay for this convenience with a little more hassle whenever you register a domain, because you have to provide the nameserver addresses manually, and then set up your DNS records separately, but when it comes to migrating those 30 websites one day, you will be so much better off.
For the record, I use Zerigo as my DNS provider, my own OpenSRS reseller account (domains.mindflow.dk) as a registrar, and Amazon EC2 instances for my servers.
My process is: set up domain in Zerigos nice interface, and then register the domain and point to Zerigos nameservers. Finally, I configure the server (set up a VirtualHost or whatever I need).