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Sorry for my confusion - I have tried looking for tutorials explaining these concepts, but haven't found anything that made sense.

I am moving my hosting from mediatemple to ec2 and I understand the general idea of how DNS works, but I'm confused as to how the internals of nameservers / zone files work and what they do. How do I get my current domains registered with mediatemple to another registrar and how do I point them to my ec2 instance so I can start using it?

Any advice or links to more information are greatly appreciated. Thank you very much!

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I couldn't find a simple set of steps for you, but you don't need to worry too much about the internals of DNS. If Mediatemple has your domain already registered, all you should need to do is change the IP address that your domain points to from the Mediatemple server's IP address to your new EC2 instance's IP address. All the hosting companies I've worked with have a web-based utility that lets you change your domain settings, but I'm afraid I haven't had experience with Mediatemple.

Your domain should be registered with Mediatemple for a fixed period (usually a year); when that period expires you're free to register it with a different domain registrar. Here's an overview that should help you out when it comes to re-register.

If you think you might want to bring EC2 instances up and down but have you domain always pointing to the current running instance, take a look at EC2's Elastic IP Address feature, which lets you assign a fixed IP address to your instances.

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Gareth seems to have provided a nice link for the DNS registration. A common technique used with EC2 is to use a dynamic dns provider to host your DNS. Zonedit, for instance, provides free Dynamic DNS services with certain limitations. There are many others providing such services.

The IP addresses of an EC2 instance changes every time you destroy and relaunch your instance. A common technique is to use a start up script that registers the server instance's public IP address with your dynamic dns provider - this avoids the cost associated with consuming Amazon Elastic IPs. If cost is not a factor then as Gareth suggests, use an elastic IP.

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