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My question is simple: does a small network need a domain name or do I just leave it empty?

Here is the information on what is happening:

I have a small network (30+ machines) that includes windows, macs, thermostats, AV equipment, etc. for a small business. We have done just fine using our provider's modem and some switches\access points. Finally we are going to use a Ubuntu server. I have done some linux admin in the past, but am not an expert.

The server will do the following:

  • local web hosting
  • DHCP
  • transparent internet proxy

The server has a two network cards (bridged) so it can be a transparent proxy (using NAT).

Everything was working fine till I tried to add a domain suffix on the DHCP config. I used the same suffix as our public domain "". When I tried to ping it of course pinged our web server because it got that IP through public DNS.

To solve that problem I changed the domain name to "local". That just caused problems. DHCP still worked, but I could no longer contact the server (ping, SSH, web, etc).

I am thinking that the best way to avoid problems is to not use a domain name. Am I wrong?

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You could set the domain to be a subdomain - or – ceejayoz May 5 '12 at 2:44
@ceejayoz Wouldn't DNS still give me the ip of my web server? – BrNathan May 5 '12 at 2:45
I'd advise you use our-company.local instead of the actual outside name. You can do split horizon to make it work with the same name inside and out; but that'll lead to possible issues in the future. – Chris S May 5 '12 at 2:45
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Ultimately, what you need is split-horizon DNS, so that hosts inside your network see local information (the intranet www server, for instance), but external hosts only see internet data (the internet www server).

You should be able to use local. without issue if you really don't want split-horizon DNS. Check that the IP given for the DNS records is correct, and that the DNS server is responding correctly to queries in that zone. DHCP should always work without DNS, and the only reason SSH and ping would fail with such a change is a resolution problem. HTTP may fail if the HTTP server is using name-based virtual hosting and is unaware of the additional DNS name.

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Do I have to run our own DNS on the server? We use openDNS, so I would prefer to just use that. I honestly don't know too much about DNS. – BrNathan May 5 '12 at 2:50
Oh. Yes, you have to provide some means of resolving any DNS name you define. If you want an intranet with domain names (which is far superior to one without them because you can use round-robin DNS and change server IPs easily), you will have to run a DNS server to provide resolution to them. You can still forward all requests for non-local data to openDNS or wherever you want if you like. DNS is actually really easy to learn. – Falcon Momot May 5 '12 at 2:52
I did setup forwarding to openDNS, but it tried to resolve all the local stuff through them. Any suggestions how I can learn my way around DNS? (I googled, but didn't come up with anything that good.) – BrNathan May 5 '12 at 2:54
It shouldn't forward things that are defined locally, but you have to define them yourself. The BIND documentation is a good place to start I think... – Falcon Momot May 5 '12 at 3:20
Thanks for all the help! – BrNathan May 5 '12 at 3:24

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