Demystifying DNS

vBlog_DebunkingDNS

You’ve just created a new Volusion store, and the homepage is already coming together. It’s time to send it to a friend for feedback! But what’s that funny-looking address in the URL bar? And how do you get it to show the domain name you chose for your site? That’s where DNS comes in. If you’re not familiar with DNS, don’t worry – this article will make everything clearer.

What is DNS?

First off, let’s walk through what DNS means. DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System, and its primary purpose is to map and redirect domain names to specific locations on the Internet, including your store.  At its most basic level, DNS can be compared to the “Contacts” list in your phone. Rather than having to remember each contact’s numerical phone number, you can select a nickname from your Contacts list and your phone will automatically dial the associated number. Your website has a numerical number associated with its location, too: it’s called an IP (Internet Protocol) address, and it’s even longer than the average phone number. Without DNS, we’d need to remember the numerical address for every website we wanted to visit.

In addition to assigning a domain name, you can use DNS for a variety of functions related to your Volusion store. Different DNS record types have unique mapping capabilities, such as pointing traffic to subdomains or routing email to a specific mail server. To use our earlier analogy, some of these functions are simply alternate ways of dialing the same number in your Contacts list.

5 Types of DNS Records

Let’s take a look at the five main types of DNS records you might use with your Volusion store:

Name Servers

Pointing name servers is the most common way to connect your domain name to your Volusion store. Keep in mind that you aren’t required to transfer your domain name to Volusion when you purchase a Volusion store.

You can save yourself time and money by contacting the current domain registrar and getting their help in pointing your domain name to Volusion’s name servers: NS3.VOLUSION.COM and NS4.VOLUSION.COM. If your registrar allows room for more than two name servers, you can add NS1.VOLUSION.COM and NS2.VOLUSION.COM as well, but it isn’t necessary. If you purchased your domain name through Volusion, you don’t need to make any changes.

Keep in mind that it can take 24 to 72 hours for your DNS changes to fully propagate across the internet, and different parts of the world may not register the change as soon as others do. One easy way to test whether the changes have propagated is to type your domain name into your browser’s address bar. If it takes you to your store, the changes have propagated. Your domain name is now successfully connected to your Volusion store!

For more information on pointing your domain name to Volusion, see our knowledge base article on DNS Settings.

 

CNAME Record

A CNAME record is commonly used to establish a store on a “subdomain” of your main website. For example, if your main website is www.yourwebsite.com, you can create a subdomain called store.yourwebsite.com by adding a “store” CNAME record.

To create a CNAME record, log in to your domain registrar’s DNS management area. Add a new DNS record and select “CNAME” as the record type. Enter your desired subdomain name (such as “store”) and use your store’s temporary URL as the host name.  The format for your temporary URL is xxxxx.xxxxx.servertrust.com.

If Volusion is your registrar, log in to your MyVolusion account and click on “Manage DNS” under the “my Stores” heading.  Click “Add New Record” at the bottom of the records list, then choose “CNAME” from the drop-down menu that appears. In the field to the left of “CNAME,” type “store” or any other subdomain name you want to use for your store. In the two fields to the right of “CNAME,” enter your store’s temporary URL. The “xxxxx.xxxxx” portion goes in the first field and the “servertrust.com” portion goes in the second field.

 

A Record

You can use an A record to either create a subdomain or point to a domain name. While CNAME records can point to a hostname or URL, an A record can only point to a numerical IP address. Since Volusion does not use static IP addresses, the IP address associated with your store can change periodically. For this reason, we strongly recommend against using A records to create subdomains for your store. If you use an A record to point your domain or create a subdomain, your store may become temporarily inaccessible without warning.

 

MX Records

MX records, short for “mail exchanger” records, are responsible for specifying which email server accepts mail for your specific domain. When you point your name servers to Volusion, the MX records point to Volusion’s mail servers by default. If you’d rather use a third party like GoDaddy or Gmail to host your domain-specific email (email addresses ending in @yourstore.com), you’ll need to update the MX records from within your MyVolusion account.

To do so, log in to MyVolusion and click on “Manage DNS” under the “my Stores” heading. From this page, you can edit the current MX records to reflect the correct location for your email host. Be sure to point your name servers to Volusion before making this change, or you’ll need to repeat the process after your DNS propagates. MX record updates can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to 24 hours to complete.

For more information, see our knowledge base article on How to Use a Third-Party Email Host With Volusion.

 

SPF Record 

Your store sends various automatic messages to you and your customers, including password reset and order confirmation emails. If you notice a disruption in sending or receiving these emails, you may be able to remedy the situation by adding an SPF record. SPF records, short for “Sender Policy Framework,” are used to authorize third-party clients as trusted sources for sending email from your email address. You can add an SPF record to let your email provider know who is and is not allowed to send emails from your email address. (Hint: Make sure Volusion is an authorized sender!)

For more information, see our knowledge base article on Additional DNS Record Types.

 

That’s it! You’re officially versed in the basic elements of DNS. While there are a few other things you may need to learn during the lifetime of your store, most DNS questions can be answered by reading through this guide. We hope you feel one step closer to becoming an expert – not just on Volusion, but on the Internet as a whole.

2 Responses to “Demystifying DNS”

  1. Alex

    For an up and running store changing domain registrars or DNS name server settings will result in the store being offline from between 1-3 days as described above. I have done and experienced this myself and its not very fun or profitable. I recommend choosing your domain registrar very carefully so you will never have or want to switch your site to another domain registrar. Choosing a great ecommerce software provider such as Volusion is equally as important because switching to a new provider will also result in the store being offline for 1-3 days while the DNS changes propagate.

    Reply

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