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I am with a small business redesigning other companies' websites. Often we will host their new website on our Linode account but they will have their email handled with some other provider.

One client had their domain registered with GoDaddy. I changed the nameservers to ns1.linode.com, ns2.linode.com, through ns5.linode.com and did not touch their MX records. There were no problems with the transfer and email service was not interrupted.

Another client had their domain registered with another Network Solutions. I went in and changed the nameservers like last time to point to the Linode, and after a few hours the new site was showing. I then received a call saying that email service was out. Turns out Network Solutions only allows you to set MX records when the nameservers are their own. What I had to do for this domain is change the nameservers to point to the Linode and then configure MX records in Linode's DNS manager.

Is one of these ways the "normal" way of doing it? Will doing it one way affect subdomains? I want to avoid email outages in the future.

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3 Answers 3

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The normal way of doing it is to leave the DNS name servers alone and to add/update the records in the zone that are pertinent to your hosting of the customer web site (A or CNAME records). There's no good reason as far as I'm concerned to move the name servers just because you're hosting the web site, unless you have some contractual agreement to do so or if the web hosting provider has a requirement to do so. As an example:

company.com:

Name Servers (NS) = Network Solutions Email (MX) = Google Web Site (A, CNAME) = 1AND1.com

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Oh, so the name server just specifies where you set the MX and A and CNAME records? So if I point them to Network Solutions, I use their DNS interface, but if the name servers point to the Linode, I use Linode's DNS interface? –  dvcolgan Oct 14 '11 at 14:55
    
Yes. The name servers are authoratative for the domain. As such, the name servers hold the DNS zone for the domain and is where you add/update/delete the DNS records for the domain. There's no need to move the name servers to the web hoster. The web hoster can host the web site without hosting the DNS zone. –  joeqwerty Oct 14 '11 at 15:35
    
This all makes so much more sense now. Thanks! –  dvcolgan Oct 14 '11 at 15:42
    
Glad to help... –  joeqwerty Oct 14 '11 at 15:54

There is nothing particularly a.b. normal in what you describe. If anything, NetSol's policy is somewhat unusual. My rule of thumb is that it's preferable to control MX if you are in charge of the NS and you (or your customer) have no relationship with the entity maintaining the MX server. But, by doing that, you also take some charge of possible mail problems.

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It actually seems to me that GoDaddy is the unusual one in this case. How can GoDaddy host the MX record for the domain if they don't host the DNS zone for the domain? –  joeqwerty Oct 14 '11 at 14:47
    
It can alright, as long as it does not change IP and/or policy of the box. I have plenty of customers, for whom I manage the NS, that have an internal mailserver (highest pref MX) or googledocs (MX are google servers). Managing both is more convenient, but by no means mandatory. –  Alien Life Form Oct 14 '11 at 15:51
    
I'm confused. I'm not talking about having MX records that point to multiple servers hosted at different email providers. I'm talking about the MX resource record. How could GoDaddy host the MX resource record for the DNS zone if they don't host the DNS zone? –  joeqwerty Oct 14 '11 at 16:06
    
They cannot, obviously. I use MX as a shorthand for "the server designated by the MX record" i.e. the physical Mail eXchanger. (I use NS in the same vein, BTW).Of course you cannot "host a record": you serve a zone, that's an all or nothing proposition. –  Alien Life Form Oct 14 '11 at 16:20
    
Gotcha. I was wondering what you meant. Thanks for clarifiying. –  joeqwerty Oct 14 '11 at 18:50

Normally you leave the nameservers alone, and just update the records that are relevant to you - in the case of websites that will be A and CNAME records, and maybe TXT if you need to prove ownership of a domain to some other service provider such as Google.

Unless you know why you are doing it, leave the nameservers alone!

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So in the domain registrar, I set an A record for the domain and any subdomains needed to point to the IP of my Linode, and then I don't need to do anything with Linode's DNS manager? –  dvcolgan Oct 14 '11 at 14:53
    
Setting the NS record for the domain defines the server that is authoritative for the domain. Unless you have a good reason to do that, I would leave those settings alone. The Linode DNS management is there since they offer the service. You don't need to use it unless you know why. –  dunxd Oct 17 '11 at 16:31

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