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I do some freelance web development and have spent a long time with a single host that provides all services (domain name, website/database hosting and email) under one account.

I am looking at improving my services but also keep costs down. My current provider has a package where I can register domain, email and a VPS but the cost is quite high. I have researched that I could spread the services to different providers, but I am unsure how this would work with DNS and existing records.

My domain name example.com is registered with Fasthosts (UK), my email is provided through Office 365 (with all the correct DNS records pointing from Fasthosts to Office 365) and I would like to run my own VPS through a different company again.

To add to this: I would also like to be able to host a number of customer websites through my VPS but also be able to provide email to them through Office 365 (I have a tenant account). They may want to keep their domain names with their own company, or I register them through Fasthosts.

Question number 1 (I guess): For my own domain (example.com) do I just need to create an A record to point my www traffic to my VPS IP? I think I've answered my own question as this seems fairly logical.

Question 2 (main question): For my customers who have their domain names hosted elsewhere but only want their website on my VPS, do I just need to, again, point an A record on their domain DNS to my VPS IP?

Do I need to do anything with nameservers, or is that if they want ALL services provided by my hosting company? So, in theory, the customer's domain registrar is just that - no services provided by them apart from the domain admin?

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    I'm really sorry, but I don't understand the question. Could you get a bit more concrete about what you're trying to do, preferably with the real domain names, and failing that with example.com-based examples? – MadHatter Oct 28 '15 at 14:47
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To answer your questions, yes, all you need to do is change the A record(s).

The easiest way is to get your clients to change the A record for www (or whatever hostname) on their DNS servers to your VPS IP. You do not need to move domains to your hosting provider's DNS servers.

Make sure the IP of your VPS is static as well. If not you will need dynamic DNS.

  • Magic. That's what I like to hear. Am I right about nameservers, though? In essence, is it for pointing pretty much all services to a different provider in one go, a bit like a transfer but not actually transferring? – Kinnectus Oct 28 '15 at 15:24
  • If you tell your clients to create A-records to your servers, you will have a bad time if you need to move their content from A to B. And this will eventually happen. – Daniel Oct 28 '15 at 15:42
  • I use a much more simple method of A records, but the answer below is the better way to do it with CNAME records. – Gmck Oct 28 '15 at 15:46
  • The problem with CNAMEs for hosting is that sooner or later someone wants a website on a naked domain. – MadHatter Oct 28 '15 at 16:14
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    Every method has a downside. From his question I assume he services SMB (accentuation on 'S') and I don't think that more than a fracture of them ask for an A-record on the server. Just have a second business model ready: Either offer to manage the domain yourself, or rent a VPS for that customer. – Daniel Oct 29 '15 at 7:14
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If you want to decentralise your services, I suggest the following.

Get a broker DNS server (term is made up).
The broker DNS server should provide static FQDN addresses to your servers and services for all your clients. This gives you flexibility in your management, and customers persistence in their DNS server management.
Give each of your servers or services (or both) a unique and persistent name and set them up as A- and AAAA-records in your broker DNS. That name should never change.

Tell your customers to point their domain names as CNAME-records to your broker A- and AAAA-records. And if you provide mail service, the MX-record must point there, too.

Why you should do it that way:
You have two advantages.

If you decide to move your web services to another VPS company, you don't have to burden your customers with the task of changing their A-records to your new server. You just do the migration and change the A-records on your broker DNS server.

Two: You can outsource certain services, such as SQL, and refer to that SQL server by FQDN. If you need to change anything on the outsourced server (ip address, etc.), you simply edit the broker DNS record accordingly. No need to inform your customers about any changes, that happen behind the curtains.

I drew something up to visualise it. (Red boxes are your servers) enter image description here

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