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Advice please on how to untangle or cut this domain name mess I created
August 3, 2014 11:11 AM   Subscribe

This domain name mess (two domains in different TLDs, separate email with GAFB, Wordpress linked to one, Web site linked to other) developed over time. It's working (mostly) but as I plan for changes my skills seem lacking. Technical details and specific questions after the break.

I assume I shouldn't use my real domain names, so let's say that I own abc.net and xyz.us.

Currently abc.net on the Web side points to Wordpress with a free plan, and I'm paying a small annual fee to use my own domain. On the MX side it points to Google Apps for Business which I'm using for the mail, storage and other services for my family members. The small number of users means it's a modest monthly fee. I set up abc.net many years ago with one domain name provider. Note that there is no web hosting provider, per se, on this domain, the http: resolves to the Wordpress blog.

The other domain xyz.us (not as old) is with a different domain name provider. It points to a Linux web host which I use for html, php, etc. It's a limited plan for which I pay a modest annual fee. I do not use the email features of the plan.

The MX setup of abc.net to GAFB seems to work, but one company said my mail was never received, repeatedly. I got two warnings in the DNS Report I requested from DNSStuff.com (SOA expiry and SMTP greeting PTR). I now just email that company from my ISP's email account and they get it consistently (a work-around). It would be nice to fix this.

Also, as the (small) annual Wordpress custom domain charge comes up for renewal, I was thinking of just pointing abc.net to the Linux web host for xyz.us as an additional domain (which is not an extra charge as long as I stay within space/bandwidth), and possibly abandon blogging or just set up a blog there.

Summary: things are more or less OK now, but I wonder if my clear lack of expertise will lead me to make things worse as I try to make the fixes/adjustments in the last two paragraphs. Specifically:
1) these are personal sites and so limited time/funds, but is there a good intermediate tutorial I should study first?
2) am I approaching this wrong, and can accomplish the same result more simply (how to do that with minimal disruption to email)?
3) this answer mentions having separate DNS provider, web host providers, email providers and domain registrars, would that help or just further stress my limited DNS skills?

Thanks!
posted by forthright to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
 
So the main problem is that one particular company doesn't receive emails you send? If so, I would invest time to become absolutely certain it's a consequence of something having to do with your DNS setup before changing anything.
posted by XMLicious at 12:04 PM on August 3


Hi XMLicious. I don't want to thread sit, but the email problem was a "nice to fix" as long as I'm messing with all this anyway.

Now my plan is to point abc.net to the xyz.us web host, which would be a different TLD and a different domain registrar.

Maybe I'm being too timid. Of course trial and error with the DNS propagation lag is a bit frustrating, but as long as I don't hose my email MX records to GAFB all else is no big deal.

I'll give it a bit and if nobody replies that I'm asking for trouble and/or clearly too much a DNS newb, my plan is to start this process the middle of this month. And, of course, if anyone knows of a wonderful intermediate practical domain management resource, that'd be great.
posted by forthright at 12:49 PM on August 3


I'm not super-experienced with DNS entries either, but it sounds to me like what you describe there ought to work. To do a makeshift test and see how the web stuff will probably work out, you can do a quick experiment with the hosts file on a test computer. (But be sure to back up the files before you change them and restore them after you're done, to avoid getting left with one particular computer hard-wired to go to a particular IP address.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:28 PM on August 3


Ok, first off, who hosts the nameservers you use for DNS? Your registrar? Wordpress? Your ability to change things is heavily predicated on where that is and what tools they provide to manage your DNS records for your domains.

If you can modify your DNS records yourself, you can point your A and/or CNAME records (whichever you use) to whatever web-host you want, independently of your MX records. So if you want to move off of your free Wordpress site and onto the shared Linux plan, you'd change the appropriate A or CNAME record pointing to Wordpress to your shared host, and your email will be untouched.

As for the email problem, it sounds like there may be some misconfiguration of your MX records if people aren't receiving your email. Do you use SPF records or DKIM at all?
posted by Aleyn at 6:03 PM on August 3


Thanks for your reply Aleyn! I will answer based on what I can tell at my current skill level.

At DomainPeople the "Name Server Info" for (what I am calling in the example) abc.net references ns1.wordpress.com (and ns2 and ns3). I was the one who typed those values in and updated my domain when I started the WP blog, and I also created the MX records at about the same time when I started using GAFB for mail.

According to the DNSStuff report my domain does not use SPF and it mentions nothing about DKIM, but at this point I wonder if either/both would be something I would set-up through DomainPeople or Google Apps for Business. I will read the links you provided and investigate configuration screens at both DomainPeople and GAFB to see if I have the option for specifying those features at either/both.

Also, maybe this is my "duuuhhh": I just noticed that in Thunderbird I still had my SMTP for the abc.net set to use my ISP's SMTP for outgoing mail which introduces still another domain in any emails I was sending. I know, you're probably thinking I'm out of my depth, but I did kind of confess that in the original question.
posted by forthright at 6:51 PM on August 3


Sorry, didn't see the new activity 'til today. Ok, your first job is to get the nameservers for your wordpress-hosted domain to a different DNS host that you control directly. Most registrars provide free DNS hosting as part of their service, and it looks like DomainPeople is no exception; here is their page on DNS customization. You could also move your DNS hosting to whatever company will be hosting the website for the domain, if that's a service they provide. While I don't know the exact steps you'll take (each registrar and web host has their own configuration interface), the steps should look something like this:
  1. From your new DNS host (e.g. DomainPeople or your webhost), set up your A/CNAME records for the domain and any subdomains (e.g. www) to point to your shared webhost.
  2. From your new DNS host, set up your MX records to point to Google Apps.
  3. Set up your webhost to send visitors to abc.net to whatever website you want them to end up at.
  4. Change your nameservers in DomainPeople's interface to point to your new DNS host's (e.g. DomainPeople's or your webhost's) DNS servers. DomainPeople may require you to do this before you can use their DNS hosting, but doing it after you've set up the DNS records will make the transition more seemless.
  5. (Optional) Delete/downgrade your wordpress hosting package.
If your abc.net domain is registered through DomainPeople, then you should avail yourself of their support options to get help with the specifics.

On the topic of why your email isn't working: you should be using Google's SMTP server to send email, not your ISP's SMTP server. It's likely that this setup is tripping some spam detection since it looks like the MX records point to Google Apps mail servers. The right settings for Google's SMTP server are here (use the settings in the column labeled Gmail SMTP server). Just make sure that Thunderbird uses those settings for your Google Apps account.
posted by Aleyn at 3:07 PM on August 7


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