DNS set up
February 5, 2008 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I need help setting up email addresses and DNS service for a business.

So. My employer really wants email addresses for @thecompanyname.com

This is what I have already done:

Purchased the domain name they wanted from go daddy.

Set up with Bell South lots of stuff: We have the small business DSL package so we get a few free static IP addresses. I've set that up and have received the address we were assigned. Now I need to set up the DNS to point at our domain, right?

I logged into the dns management and added the domain. Now I need to figure out how to list bell south as the Primary DNS on Godaddy, right? And then set up the email addresses, I imagine using MX records (although I don't really know what those are)

Did I miss any steps? What else do I need to do? Can anyone with experience with the fastaccess.com/dns GUI from BellSouth and GoDaddy walk me through the rest? I've run out of knowledge.
posted by lazaruslong to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Q1: Where are you planning on hosting your website/email? Is it on a server in your office?
posted by zackola at 10:15 AM on February 5, 2008

Best answer: Does google apps do what you need?
posted by rdr at 10:20 AM on February 5, 2008

I'm sorry I've been having reading problems lately. Please ignore my question as Bell South is hosting the email
posted by zackola at 10:20 AM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm. No, we don't have a server. They already have a site hosted by a community development group elsewhere, and don't need another one at the moment. They just want to have email at that domain name.

Do I actually need to purchase hosting for that as well? I guess I was under the impression that I could set up addresses for them with the small business package we have with Bell South already.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:20 AM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: Google apps is nice, but kind of a non-sequitir for this question. The system I am working with to set this up is a domain name and our existing small business BellSouth DSL account which includes DNS management and some static IPs.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:23 AM on February 5, 2008

Best answer: Following rdr, I will strongly recommend setting up Google Apps for Your Domain and just pointing to it with MX records at GoDaddy. I've been running Internet mail servers for businesses for 15 years, and have moved all my mail to Gmail.

In any case: you don't need to move your primary DNS, leave that at GoDaddy. Just add MX records pointing to the mail server you want to use for the domain - that's all an MX record is, a specific type of DNS record that tells mail-transfer agents what server is supposed to accept mail for addresses at a given domain. Here's how to set up your MX records to point to Google.
posted by nicwolff at 10:29 AM on February 5, 2008

Best answer: Are you trying to host the DNS yourself? That is, are you trying to run your own DNS server? Or are you going to pay someone else to do that part?

Basically, the DNS system is just a set of pointers.... you have to set up entries that tells the Internet what computer to ask where 'www.thecompanyname.com' is. So the first decision is: what computer will answer those questions?

Bellsouth may do that for you as part of your DSL package, but I'm not familiar with what they offer. That's a pretty normal thing for ISPs to do, so they probably will, but you'll need to set it up with them first. Once they have their DNS servers programmed to answer for thecompanyname.com, then you tell the Internet to consult them. That's done at your registrar.

None of this is terribly difficult, but there's, geeze, quite a lot to do in going from zero to hosting your own website and mail server. I'd think of it as being about a one-day project to get all my Is dotted and Ts crossed, and I know which end of the stick is pointy. If you're just starting, it could take a _lot_ longer.

Maybe you'd be better served going to one of the webhosts and doing it that way? They often have semi-automated tools that will do most of the grunt work for you. Unless you have some real need to do it yourself, it's usually better to have someone else handle it. There's just too many things you can get wrong.
posted by Malor at 10:30 AM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: Maybe I'm being unclear because I lack the proper vocabulary to describe what I need.

I'm not looking for a different hosting solution or to use google apps. I'm already about halfway through the process of setting up their domain and DNS with the existing ISP (BellSouth).

I've bought the domain, added the static IP address required to login to the DNS control panel for Bell South, and added the domain in that control panel. The FAQ says I can now add and edit email addresses from that control panel, but doesn't say where or how. I am assuming it has something to do with MX records, and I need to know how to do this.

I also need to know how to set up BellSouth as the Primary DNS over at GoDaddy with is my domain registrar, as well as any other information I need to enter in at GoDaddy to make everything work.

Sorry if I am being obtuse, its a lexicon limitation and not my intention.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:30 AM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: nicwolff: I think I see what you are getting at. Question though..

So I would be setting up the MX records to point to the gmail servers. How does that work from a user perspective? What I mean is, what would the addresses look like? Would it be "foobar@companyname.com" that then gets forwarded somewhere? Where would Mr Foobar log in to read the email?
posted by lazaruslong at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2008

DNS and static IP addresses don't get you a mail server. Unless you really want to install a server in your office, assign it one of those IP addresses, install and configure mail-server software (and spam-blocking software) on it, and worry about whether its disks are full &c, you want someone else to run your mail server. Google does this better than anyone else at present - far better than whatever Bell South can offer.

IP addresses are hardware addresses. They don't route mail; in fact, you can't use an IP address in an MX record. MX records point to the host names of mail servers, as configured elsewhere in the DNS.
posted by nicwolff at 10:36 AM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: I gotcha. So let's say I go through that tutorial and use the google apps mail servers. What does that look like for a small business? What interface would they be logging into, and could I create a bunch of emails for the bosses, e.g.


posted by lazaruslong at 10:39 AM on February 5, 2008

Sorry, didn't preview. Yes, from a user's perspective, your e-mail addresses would look like lazarus@companyname.com or whatever. When someone sends mail to that address, their mail server will ask its DNS server for an MX record for "companyname.com.", and will get one listing ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM, so that's where it will send the mail. Your users will collect mail from imap.gmail.com using their desktop mail tools normally - but will also have the option of using Google's excellent Gmail Web-mail site.
posted by nicwolff at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: snap nice. thanks rdr and nicwolff and others, i'm going to go walk through that process with google apps and come back with questions if there are any. hugs!
posted by lazaruslong at 10:43 AM on February 5, 2008

I still recommend Gmail and Google Apps, but if Bell South promises to run a mail server for you as part of their DSL product then you have that option as well. But you shouldn't have to move your primary DNS, or do anything with the static IP addresses; the process should be similar to setting up Google Apps, just add an MX record at GoDaddy with the hostname of whatever mail server BellSouth tells you to use, define the users for whom BellSouth's server will be storing mail using BellSouth's Web site, then set up your office workstations to get mail from that server.

I don't know if BellSouth offers IMAP, which is one way workstations can read mail that is stored on a mail server - if it offers only POP, then you'll save yourself many headaches by using Google's Gmail and IMAP.
posted by nicwolff at 11:14 AM on February 5, 2008

set up the MX records to point to your BellSouth Mail server.

from there, any mail that comes to yourdomainname.com will go thru the MX records to the server. you only have to do this once for your whole domain. then once the mail is coming to the server, the server checks the accounts and delivers the mail to the appropriate mail box.

users accounts have to be set up on the server side, using the control panel. my ISP has a special "email admin" webtop control panel aside from the "web admin" webtop cp that controls the domain web service. you may have to log in to a different admin control to set up emails, although don't quote me on that, i've never used bell south.

hope you find this helpful. and NO i don't use capitals properly... evar...
posted by br4k3r at 11:18 AM on February 5, 2008

Best answer: This is a multi-stage process, and even knowing exactly how to do this, I'm still confused by the explanations I've read so far. So, I'll try again.

1. Decide what computers host your DNS, mail, and website. That can be GoDaddy, it can be Bellsouth, or it can be servers you run. Note that these services are separate from providing you bandwidth (Bellsouth) and registering your domain (GoDaddy). Generally, they will cost extra money. Some registrars will host your DNS for free, but most charge extra to host your website and email.

2. With your registrar (GoDadd)y, you now need to register your nameservers. If you're using someone else's, you just tell it that your hosts are, say, 'ns1.bellsouth.com' and 'ns2.bellsouth.com'. If you're using GoDaddy to also host your DNS (and not just register it), they should offer instructions on how to use their DNS servers.

2a. If you're running the servers yourself (you're required to have two machines serving DNS), you have to create nameserver host entries with your registrar, pointed to the right IPs, and then configure the domain to use those nameservers. This looks very similar to what you'll do later in your zone files, but it's being stored in the global DNS system. It's just enough data to get to your server and get all further information from you. It's the seed info, just barely enough to make DNS work at all.

3. Configure your intended DNS server to answer for 'thecompanyname.com'. If you use Bellsouth or GoDaddy, they should have a basic template ready to go. You can generally contact them for help in getting the basics going.

4. If you're hosting your own DNS, you need to create/configure your zone file. It needs to have the same information we just listed with your registrar. It must list your nameservers. If your nameservers are in your domain, it must list A records for each host. This should match the data you entered at your registrar exactly. If that information changes, you need to update it in BOTH places. Don't forget that. You're duplicating what the global DNS knows locally, and it's your responsibility to keep the two in sync. If you don't do this, you can get very strange lookup issues.

An example configuration file:
$TTL 3600
$ORIGIN com.
thecompanyname IN SOA ns1.thecompanyname.com. contactemail.thecompanyname.com. (
2008020501 1800 900 86400 900 )
     IN     NS     ns1.thecompanyname.com.
     IN     NS     ns2.thecompanyname.com.
     IN     MX     10 mail.thecompanyname.com.

$ORIGIN thecompanyname.com.
@       IN     A
ns1     IN     A
ns2     IN     A
www     IN     A

Lines with IN A are 'address' lines, linking a name to an IP. NS records are for 'nameservers'; they list a name. You must also include an A record for that name if it's in the same domain. An MX record tells the Internet where to deliver mail for thecompanyname.com. The @ and the www lines are A records to aim thecompanyname.com and www.thecompanyname.com at your webserver. in all cases, substitute the correct IP addresses.

Note the trailing periods on the DNS names. This is crucial. If you don't have a trailing period, all lookups are relative to the looker's local domain. If you list this record:

www     IN     MX     10      www.thecompanyname.com

without the trailing period, a mailserver from example.com will try to deliver mail to www.thecompanyname.com.example.com. The correct syntax, almost exactly the same:

www     IN     MX     10      ww.thecompanyname.com.

Always, always put a trailing period after your fully-qualified DNS names, and you will avoid a billion possible issues.

Also: all the numbers in the SOA line are meaningful. You can get a longer explanation here.

5. Set up your mailhost; point the MX record at the right name. (not the IP). List an A record for it if needed.

6. Set up your webserver.

Every piece of this is moderately complex and can be done wrong. It's fiddly, confusing, and there's lots of little steps. If you get any of them wrong, things won't work until they're fixed. Worse, you can get things working to some degree even if you've misconfigured one or more steps, which can give you big issues later. Because of that, I suggest getting an expert involved. Once the foundation is built, it's pretty easy to make changes, but getting everything right in the beginning will take some work.
posted by Malor at 8:25 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Darn it, typo... ww.thecompany.name.com in the last code section omitted a w. Sorry!
posted by Malor at 8:25 PM on February 5, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, thanks a ton Malor! Bookmarking this page forever, heh. That was super helpful and thorough.

Update: I'm currently looking at google apps to host the mailserver and take care of the DNS stuff. I'm verifying domain ownership by creating a CNAME at the moment and it says it will take 24-48 hours to confirm that before I can move ahead. Gonna check back in here if I need any more help with setting that up with gApps, or I may MeMail someone here if the thread is way ancient.

Thanks a ton everyone, this has been very educational.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:17 AM on February 6, 2008

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