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Carl Levine
Posted by
Carl Levine on
September 12, 2016

Ready, Set, Delegate

To a great many, the seemingly daunting task of switching authoritative DNS providers can be a stressful prospect. While that sentiment is surely not unwarranted, this article should provide some peace of mind when making the switch.

What is Delegation?

In the context of the DNS, delegation is the assignment of name servers to a given domain name. This information tells the respective registry where the authoritative servers live for a name, so that DNS resolution can happen.

Ensuring Readiness

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already set up a zone in NS1’s portal or via our API. This zone could have been manually created, imported from a zone file, or transferred via AXFR from your current DNS provider.

Check that the new zone resolves against our name servers, and matches the serial number of your existing DNS server’s zone file.

Open a Terminal window and DIG for your zone against your assigned name servers where is your actual zone name, and XX is your assigned NS pool.

$; dig soa

Take note of the serial number. If you’ve replicated the zone from an existing one via AXFR or import, the serial number should be identical to the one from your old providers’ zone. Manually created zones will have a different serial number and should be verified by other means.

If the zones do not match, or the DIG returns an error, check your syntax and retry. Failing that, you may consider re-uploading or re-transferring the zone.

Pro tip: If your current DNS provider will allow it, set your NS and SOA TTLs low before making the switch. This will allow for an easy fail-back if something goes awry in the transition.

Making The Switch Without Downtime

Assuming everything went well with the verification step, the time has come to make the switch. This may involve logging into a user portal at your domain registrar, or somehow otherwise initiating the switch.

As we determined in the previous step, the zone is serving queries, but just needs the firehose of queries directed at it instead of your old DNS servers.

Your registrar may take anywhere from an instant to a few days to enact the changes to your registration.

Checking Your Work + Sunsetting Your Old DNS

Now that we’ve pulled the trigger, and enacted the change to the registration, it’s only a matter of time before the changes are live.

When you have it on good authority that the registrar has enacted the change, you can pop over to your terminal window and use the following DIG to ensure this all went according to plan:

$ dig [] ns

If you see four (or more, for you Dedicated DNS enthusiasts out there) shiny new NS1 nameservers listed there, congratulations! If not, patience is a virtue that must be exercised when playing the waiting game – thankfully, your old DNS is still serving queries until the switch takes hold.

Once the DIG shows the successful result – our nameservers – wait 24 hours before shutting down your old DNS.

Sidebar: Registrars That Do Other Things

Depending on where you purchased your domain, your registrar may have thrown in some value-added services like email forwarding or even a full-blown email server for your use. In some cases, the registrar may be providing basic Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Web Hosting services that are tied directly to the DNS. Note that some registrars will not allow these services to persist after migrating DNS away. If this is the case, you’ll do well to move your email and hosting to some other providers that are agnostic to your DNS choice.

Bringing It All Home

Congratulations, you’ve survived the migration and are now up and running. While we lobbied to get some t-shirts with “I Survived The Great DNS Migration” emblazoned on them, we figure sharing this article with your techie friends is just as good. Just like your high school math class, check your work often and make sure that it’s all looking good.