Backup DNS

DNS Backup
Last week I wrote about backing up your website and knowing exactly what the backup and restore policies are with your web hosting plan. Now, let’s look at another type of backup: Making sure your site is accessible at all times. You may be aware that late last year there was quite a situation with Go Daddy where their DNS (Domain Name Servers) went down and many websites as well as email were not available for several hours.

On the internet, we first have the top level or DNS zone servers which contain the addresses of the TLD (top level domain) servers. So, when a request goes out for let’s say, the zone servers direct the request to the server with the addresses for .com sites—same goes for .net, .org, etc. The request then gets routed to the name server which contains records for everything in the domain. This is how your website is found. If your name servers are down, your website can’t be located.

When you set up your domain, you specify your name servers (unless your hosting company does it for you). Usually, your Nameserver1 and Nameserver2 are called something like nssomething1 and nssomething2. The potential problem here is that often these two servers are either physically located right next to each other, or in some cases they may actually be the same computer—not exactly the greatest form of redundancy.

In the case of the Go Daddy incident, initially some thought it was a malicious outside attack. However, Go Daddy later said the problem was a result of an internal network issue that was quickly fixed. In either case, the need for a backup DNS was heightened for some webmasters.

Let me just say that most of the top rated website hosting companies do a great job in keeping your sites online and available. Many of these companies have 99% to 100% uptime guarantees. Fortunately, I have not had to deal with a DNS outage. And for many of you, I would suspect you can get by without having a separate DNS backup. However, for those of you who absolutely must have their site online and available at all times, I would definitely suggest looking into getting a backup DNS. If you do an online search, you’ll find there are many services available.

I’ve heard some people say you that if you have more than one hosting company, you could actually use one as your DNS backup. But I’ve contacted a number of web hosts and found that this practice is not allowed and in fact is usually prohibited in your terms of use. While there may be a web hosting company that allows this practice, I’d play it safe and go for an outside DNS backup service. There are even some free services out there, but I’ve never tried them so proceed with caution.

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