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What methods do people use for viewing sites during periods of DNS propagation? We use WHM/cPanel for all sites so the sites on those servers can be accessed by http://IP.ADDRESS/~username/ but this is often not suitable for client access and also doesnt work for certain site configurations. Internally we often use some free proxy sites but these are full of malware and porn ads so certainly not suitable for client access and have other problems because of frame usage. I know we could probably do this by going down the purer proxy route using one of the main Firefox extensions but again this is beyond most clients scope. What do other people do?

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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

For developer preview I use /etc/hosts entry.

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yeah good point, that is ideal for developers but very scary for clients –  seengee May 18 '09 at 11:06
    
In the past I've written little VB apps that automate the changes to /etc/hosts for them and then undo them when testing is done. Seems to do some automated handholding- and gives me a good platform for displaying release notes, links to the bug tracker, etc. –  Tim Howland May 18 '09 at 12:38
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DNS propagation will take as long as it takes. If you can't use the site's "official" DNS name then the only choice is another domain or the site IP. The latter is far from ideal, though, particularly if you're using name based virtual hosting.

At my previous employer we used customer.development.example.com while the site was being developed, and customer.servername.example.com when it was live.

Who is supposed to be viewing the site?

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the issue is primarily one of client preview, not the general public. –  seengee May 18 '09 at 11:39
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Alnitak's answer is still right, though. Create another DNS entry pointing to the site you want, and put an extremely short Time To Live (TTL) on it, like 60 seconds. That way you can repoint it if you run into problems, and it won't be getting much load anyway. Using a DNS entry makes you look more professional to clients if you can say "Go to preview.yournewsite.com"; instead of telling them to edit a hosts file. –  Brent Ozar May 18 '09 at 11:51
    
yep, sorry didnt meant to imply that Alnitak's answer was incorrect, it is correct but the problem we are dealing with is attempting to make a client realise that their new site is actually live on their domain of choice but that DNS is the issue so a preview.domain.com solution would not really work for this. I guess proxy or hosts file is only solution –  seengee May 18 '09 at 12:04
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If DNS hasn't propagated yet, the site isn't "live." –  David Schmitt May 18 '09 at 13:12
    
@David - indeed not! –  Alnitak May 18 '09 at 13:59
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If you don't like Alnitak's answer about a DNS entry, the second best thing is to put a dedicated "preview" page on the web design company's site that links to your various previewing works-in-progress. For example, tell the client to go to http://www.MyWebDesignCo.com/clients/AcmeInc and then on that page, use a redirect to go to the IP address or wherever the real preview location is.

One advantage of this method is that you can edit the page fast to change the location without waiting on DNS setup or DNS TTL problems.

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There's also this online tool for those whom the HOSTS file is too scary :) http://www.previewasite.com

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