For the most part, domain settings are pretty simple. Where they seem to become the most difficult is when you have a website provider that has had you point your name servers to them. Then you decide to change to a new website provider, but you are afraid that you will loose your email in the process.
I have had this come up several times in the recent past, so it seemed like a good idea to create a post on how handle it.
First of all, I am going to put this together in as simple terms as I can.
Name servers is full control of your domain.
If you purchased your domain through Godaddy or another registrar, at the moment you purchase it the name servers are located with that registrar. Where ever the name server is located is where you have full control of each piece of your domain. The two pieces that we talking about here are your ‘A’ record and your MX record. Your ‘A’ record which is what you would use to point to a website host for the website to be publicly available. So if you own websitedomain.com and you have your website hosted where the IP address is xx.xx.xx.xx, to have the site be visible when someone types in websitedomain.com you would need to point your ‘A’ record to that IP address.
MX records are similar, but are associated with email. Instead of a website hosting account you will have an email service. Something like Google Apps for business, a Microsoft exchange server, or even webmail directly through your domain registrar.
What happens when your current website provider has name servers?
When you point name servers to a website provider you are essentially giving them full control of your domain and email. This can have benefits in that the website provider can move your website from server to server without having to bother you. The downside is you now have given control of your email and domain to a company that you may end up canceling in the future. Of course you would like to stay with the same website provider forever, but it is best to assume that this will not be the case.
If your name servers are pointing to a company that you cancelled and you need to get control back, don’t worry. There are a few steps that you can take to make this go off without a hitch (hopefully… it’s still technology after all).
Step One: Gather the required information
Have the IP address for the new website hosting. You will get this from your hosting company or your new website provider.
This is probably the most important step to having this process go well. By having all of the proper information up front, you can stumble through the rest and still come out smelling like a rose. First thing you should do is get the MX record information as well as who handles your email. If you have an IT company that has setup an Exchange server or something similar, it would be a good idea to contact them and let them know you are getting ready to make a change. By doing this, you will at least have a contact person if things don’t go as planned. What I would recommend is to use a reverse mx record lookup tool like http://mxtoolbox.com/. By typing in the domain that controls your email it will give you the the mx record and IP information that you will need later. I usually take a screen shot of the information so that I have it ready later.
IMPORTANT: As soon as you park your domain this information will disapear and you will end up going on a wild goose chase to get it. So make sure and do this first.
Step Two: Park your domain
Parking your domain is just a matter of moving the name servers back to your registrar for that domain. Below are a couple screen shots of what that looks like in Godaddy. Keep in mind this step will take your site down for a few minutes when it changes and it is hard to say how long it the change will take, usually about 10 minutes. Either way you will want to plan this when you have an hour or so to sit and hit refresh repeatedly until the domain has been parked. Once it is parked you will point the ‘A’ record to the new hosting provider
Step Three: Point the ‘A’ record to the new hosting provider
Since your site will be “down” until the ‘A’ record propagates you will want to do this right away. Make sure and turn the TTL down as low as you can. With Godaddy, this will be 30 minutes.