How to Point a Domain to Your New Website
Finally! You have your new shiny website all ready to go live and it’s hosted with a reputable hosting company. So how do you point a domain to your new website? First things first, do you have a domain name? I’m sure you do, but just in case you can buy a domain name from a number of different domain registrars. One of my personal favorite sites to use for domain searches is Bust A Name (www.bustaname.com).
Before you point your domain to your new website, you need to answer a few questions.
1. Do you already have a domain name? (if not see paragraph above)
2. Does your domain point to an old website?
3. If your domain points to an old website, do you have email addresses associated with that domain?
4. Are the email addresses hosted on the same server as the website, or on a separate exchange server?
Setting the Nameservers for Your Domain Name
With a brand new website and a domain name that is not currently pointing to your website, you can edit the Nameservers to point to the server where the site is hosted. You’ll need to find out the nameserver addresses from your hosting company. They will looks something like ns1.hostingcompany.com and ns2.hostingcompany.com. Once you have those, log into your domain’s registrar and you can change the Nameserver settings.
If you have email addresses with your domain name and they are hosted on the same server as your current website, you’ll need to set those email addresses up on the new hosting server before you change the nameservers. It sometimes takes longer for email to get switched to the new hosting company than it does the website, but if you go ahead and set the email addresses up at the new host you are less likely to have “downtime” with email.
When the website is built and on the hosting server, the email addresses are setup, and the nameservers are switched for your new hosting, then your site and email will soon be live! It usually takes 24 to 48 hours for the nameserver change to take effect around the world (it may be live for some folks and not for others during that period).
Website Pointing Here, Email Pointing There
WARNING! We’re getting into some nerdy stuff here, but it’s very important to know if your company has email on a separate server.
How do you make the website go to one place and your email go to another, even though it’s the same domain? By changing the “A Record” and the “MX Records,” that’s how. Need help on what those are? Let’s take a step back…
Your domain has a DNS. That stands for Domain Name System (sometimes called Domain Name Server). The DNS is usually editable where the Nameservers are pointed (i.e. ns1.hostingcompany.com, ns2.hostingcompany.com). The DNS contains several different types of records. The A Record points the IP address of your website. The MX Records point to your email server. “A Record” stands for address record and “MX” stands for Mail Exchange.
Now that you are smarter, to point just your website, find out the IP address of your newly hosted website. Plug in the IP number into the A Record for your domain. For the email, find out the address of your mail server and put that into an MX Record for your domain.
Also, regarding MX Records, it is possible to have several different addresses to use for MX Records. These are prioritized by putting a number like 10, 20, 30, etc. with that MX Record. The lower the number, the higher the priority and therefore the MX Record that is used first.
Wrapping It Up
There you have it. A brand new website on a brand new server. By answering the questions above early on in your website project, you can save yourself a lot of headaches. Or at least you can carry on a conversation with a few nerdy IT folks!