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I have a customer whom I will be hosting a website for, let's say it is example.com. I'm still pretty new at this, thus the worry about what is probably something fairly simple:

Right now example.com is only used for email, and the email service is via airmail.net which is a service provided by their broadband company. The domain registrar (networksolutions) is using the nameservers provided by airmail.net

The email service does not allow any access to DNS records. Or if they do, nobody on their tech support team knows how to allow it. Therefore, I can't simply change the A record to point to my http service.

It appears that I'm going to need to eliminate the email hosting company as DNS and either use the DNS zone at the registrar -- or change DNS at the registrar to my own DNS servers - where I will establish the MX records.

I just want to make sure my game plan will not cause them any impact to email services.

DIG AXFR fails; connection refused.

DIG @ns-0.airmail.net example.com ANY reports this:

 ;; QUESTION SECTION:
 ;example.com.      IN  ANY

 ;; ANSWER SECTION:
 example.com.   7200    IN  MX  10 mx-0.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  MX  10 mx-1.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  MX  10 mx-2.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  MX  10 mx-3.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  MX  5 mx.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  NS  ns-0.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  NS  ns-1.airmail.net.
 example.com.   7200    IN  SOA ns-0.airmail.net. hostmaster.airmail.net. 1509131953 10800 3600 604800 86400
 example.com.   7200    IN  A   216.39.223.226

 ;; ADDITIONAL SECTION:
 mx-0.airmail.net.  7200    IN  A   209.249.171.237
 mx-1.airmail.net.  7200    IN  A   209.249.171.237
 mx-2.airmail.net.  7200    IN  A   209.249.171.237
 mx-3.airmail.net.  7200    IN  A   209.249.171.237
 mx.airmail.net.        7200    IN  A   209.249.171.237
 ns-0.airmail.net.  7200    IN  A   209.44.180.50
 ns-1.airmail.net.  7200    IN  A   209.44.180.51

 ;; Query time: 174 msec
 ;; SERVER: 209.44.180.50#53(209.44.180.50)
 ;; WHEN: Fri Dec  1 02:28:50 2017
 ;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 362

Seems like there are no TXT records. Given this, does it seem like I have all the information I need and my plan is sound? I will set a low TTL at first, even though it probably doesn't matter since the MX target is not changing.

(edit: I think I also have to consider mail.example.com and webmail.example.com -- how do I know all the possible subdomains I need to check for DNS records?)

Thanks for any advice you may have so I can complete this successfully.

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The “Any” or “*” query isn’t reliable for getting an entire zone, the RFCs place no expectation on on the server to give a complete answer to this query.. it maybe complete but it maybe not. In lots of places ANY queries have limitations or are blocked entirely due to security concerns.

In your case if you can’t get a zone file out of the current DNS provider, it will unfortunately be a case of crossing your fingers and hoping. I’ve been in that position a few times and it hasn’t bitten me yet but your mileage may vary!

I’d do specific queries for TXT records to check for any SPF or DKIM records that maybe in place to help with email deliverability and these might not be included in the ANY response due to size.

Sub domains may exist but is unlikely if the current provider is only interested in Email hosting. I’d cover your bases by doing queries for common sub domains (mail, www, etc..) again without a zone file all you can do is document the queries you did, as evidence that you took reasonable steps to reduce the risk of missing records.

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Your question seems quite long and is not particularly easy to follow, so I'll just give you the method I use, which will be pretty standard.

It's this simple to change name servers without down time:

  • Set up your new DNS service (which can be with your domain registrar, CloudFlare, Route53, etc) so it has MX records that point to the airmail service. You should have TXT records for SPF and DKIM really.
  • Set up your new DNS server so root domain A records point at the web host, webmail etc point to airmail, and www CNAME points at the A records
  • Change the name servers with your registrar to the new DNS service
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  • Thanks Tim. I guess the crux of the problem is that without having a full zone report, and zone transfer query (axfr) disallowed...I'm afraid I'm missing something - subdomains for example. Or is having the DIG results for the domain itself good enough? – C C Dec 1 '17 at 3:36
  • Subdomains are tricky, there's no easy way I know to get a full list. Maybe someone else can help clarify. – Tim Dec 1 '17 at 7:08
  • Why not ask the mail service provider what DNS records are required? If they don't know or aren't willing to tell, I'd change the email service. – Esa Jokinen Dec 1 '17 at 7:20
  • @EsaJokinen it's not that simple. Moving MX records is a lot less involved than moving the entire mail service to a new provider. I will ask them again for the zone file...but if 'no' then I have to handle the DNS switch. – C C Dec 1 '17 at 12:45

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