Moving Domain Hosts
January 13, 2004 11:07 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to redesign a medium-sized corp (60 employees) web site. The current host is dreadful and I want to switch it to Dreamhost, who I use for all my small clients without problem. How will moving their web site/domain to a different host affect their email? [MI]

I guess i'm not even sure what I'm asking... they have a networked office. When I move the site, do I then just create a pop3 account for each person, the same as I would for a small client or does the fact that they have a network affect this? Do I have to go through their IT dept? I don't mind asking stupid questions here but I think if I went to them with this question they'd think I wasn't capable of the job. Suggestions, or do I need more info before I'm able to properly ask this question?
posted by dobbs to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
It's not a stupid question, but "how will I deal with their email?" has more to do with how they are dealing with email now than it does with where you are locating the web server.
posted by majick at 11:18 PM on January 13, 2004

Let's assume at 60 employees they have a mail server, e.g. Exchange. That server's mail name ( and attendant IP address is stored as the MX record at the domain registrar, which ideally is not the same as the current web host. When you change the WWW pointer (the A name -- -- and CNAME -- at the registrar, as you must if you change hosts, you simply leave the MX record alone -- and all the mail will continue to be handled as before by the server.

It may be better to get the hosting information, supply it to the IT department, and have them perform the switch. That way they get the flak if anything gets screwed up!

If, by historical accident, they are still running a 60-person firm via individually managed POP accounts on the host (ack!), you may wish to arrange for them to consider a mail server instead, managed by you of course.
posted by dhartung at 11:19 PM on January 13, 2004

I think they will have email set up through their own IT department. I doubt you would want to set up and manage their entire email operation especially through a shared hosting site! If they have an IT department are you sure they aren't going to host the website themselves?
posted by darkpony at 11:20 PM on January 13, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers. Some clarification:

1. So first I want to find out if they're running a mail server--I ask their IT person this or is it possible to find out online (similar to looking up a dns)?

2. dhartung, when you say change the WWW pointer, I assume you mean alter the DNS. I don't think I've ever seen an MX record and wouldn't know how to change it so I guess what I'm asking is, does changing the DNS automatically alter this MX record?

3. The MX record... what is it? They want to "get off X" (their host) as the company is awful and charges through the nose (they've been using the same host since they got their site in 1996 and the price is the same, about c$100/mo with no bells or whistles). Should I be moving the MX record to Dreamhost as well?

4. Out of curiousity, what is the problem with running everything via POP?

5. Darkpony, they definitely aren't going to host the site themselves as they asked me to research hosts for them as part of the job.

How should I word my email to their IT person in order to get any answers that will help me deal?
posted by dobbs at 6:17 AM on January 14, 2004

if their current web host has nothing to do with email, email forwards etc, then you shouldnt even spend time worrying about this, you are being very smart checking it out though

but, you need to know how they are doing DNS (web based, like, etc, or in house, manually.) dreamhost likes to take over dns (the one bad thing about them, IMHO, even though i love their service) an email to dreamhost will probably be in order once you find this out.

whether or not pop/imap/exchange probably has nothing to do with your decisions on their web host, esp if they have a knowledgeable IT guy. POP has its advantages (simplicity) but its disadvantages (portability, backup)

hope this helps
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:54 AM on January 14, 2004

Don't take this as harshly as I make it sound, dobbs, and it's very possible I'm way out of line in which case I apologize profusely and will slink back to my hole, but I'd strongly suggest you avoid being the implementor of any DNS changes or modifications to their mail infrastructure. It sounds to me like you're the web designer, and they want you to be a domain system administrator, and you're out of your depth.

Look into the hosting service itself, do the redesign work, help them set up the account, and have their IT people work out with the hosting service what DNS changes to make. It's not too complicated (you're only changing IN ADDR for the new web hosts) except that: (A) you clearly don't know what you're doing on the systems administration side of things, (B) who manages their DNS servers and how they manage them is a factor, and (C) web hosting does not a domain make, and has pretty much nothing to do with email apart from some common consumer-level service bundling, despite how these hosting companies want you to think.

There is a real danger that going in and doing what you think is the right thing here will cause serious problems. DNS, mail, and HTTP are all completely different but somewhat interrelated things, and treating them as a package is really only useful for small installations with a handful of users.

If you're asking questions like "what's an MX record?" you aren't the right person for that part of the job and you're going to need a partnership with the client's IT people so that you can hand over the implementation details that you don't understand. If they don't have an IT person to deal with this, revise your quote upwards, do the creative work you know well, and get a subcontractor in to help you with the technical side of things. Self-educating to the point where you can make informed decisions about this could easily be bigger than the job.
posted by majick at 10:46 AM on January 14, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks again, folks. And no, majick, no insult taken there. You're right. I'm a web designer and prefer not to deal with this stuff. I will put the ball re: email back in their court.

Thanks, all!
posted by dobbs at 5:19 PM on January 14, 2004

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