I am used to administering DNS on *NIX, where I can just specify A record for the root domain, e.g.
@ A 10.11.12.13
However when I try to do this on a Microsoft DNS, I get an error message about invalid hostname. How can I set this up?
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You do now that
@ is shorthand for the current ORIGIN name in a master zone file1, right?
When using a different name server, that does not use zone files and you probably can't use zone file shorthand. You should probably be able to enter the full name of the zone (the "domain name") instead:
example.com. A 10.11.12.13