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I'm updating my zone configuration using nsupdate. My question is - does bind need to be restarted for update to take place?

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I just tried adding a cname on a test system and didn't need to restart bind for the cname to become usable.

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it should not be need it - this is what the man pages says

Zones that are under dynamic control via nsupdate or a DHCP server should not be edited by hand. Manual edits could conflict with dynamic updates and cause data to be lost.

also you can run the nsupdate with -d to debug the request/response.

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