Using different hosters for domain and subdomain
Recently for an active project I wanted to link the main domain
sprakit.com to one hoster and a subdomain
beta.sprakit.com to another
hoster. Technically, this is not a big deal, but it’s simpler with a basic
understanding of the DNS record and its entries.
DNS lookup process
Whenever you want to visit a domain, your operating system has to find out the corresponding IP. This is of course a simple lookup table problem, but having all domain names around the world in a local table would be a bit too much and a many entries would change each day. Thus, your local computer will never have all hostnames resolvable. In fact, depending on the operating system and setup you are using, you might not even use a cache at all. Standard linux operating systems without additional software do not use a cache.
Whether your operating system does use a DNS cache or not, it will always
start up the local resolver on a DNS request. This tries to resolve
the hostname to an IP locally, e.g. by looking through the DNS cache and
checking a local hosts file (
/etc/hosts on linux).
Whenever your operating system cannot resolve a hostname, it will query the
configured nameservers. Some people set this to the own router, other
people set it to remote servers (famous
126.96.36.199 at Google) and for
standard users it’s usually a nameserver at the own ISP.
If this station does have the requested information in its cache, it will
respond immediately, otherwise it will start an iterative query. For sake
of simplicity, let’s imagine we want to access
the iterative query it would start at the root nameservers and query for
information about the TLD
We will look into more detail of the meanings of these outputs later, for now just concentrate onto the first and last column.
It gets a response for nameservers which are responsible for the
domain. It can send the next request for
sprakit.com to any of these
The last line is the IP address for the domain
sprakit.com, but this is
not the domain of interest. So the iterative query once again has to go on
and query for
And finally the nameserver got the result. With this result, it can update its own cache (in case more requests for this domain will occur) and send the result back to the requesting computer.
So let’s have a closer look at the DNS records. These are the configuration entries for your domain and subdomains. They are summarized into a so called zone file.
The most frequent DNS record in this blog post up to now is the NS record. This record determines one or multiple nameservers for a domain. This tells the DNS resolver which server to query for more information on the given domain.
We also saw the A record above. This tells us the IPv4 address for a domain, so this is the information you are often interested in. If you use IPv6, then the relevant record is AAAA.
When you send an email, the MX record is important. This tells the resolver
which server is responsible for processing emails. Usually, this is different
from the domain you use in the mail address. Imagine you send a mail to me
via [something]@sprakit.com. This will not necessarily be handled by the same server
that handles the normal requests to sprakit.com. Instead, a DNS query of
sprakit.com for MX records will return:
So, a mail transport agent will know that it should send mails targeted to [something]@sprakit.com to the server under mail.sprakit.com, for which in turn it will have to query the IP address. The MX record should point to a host name, and not directly to an IP address.
Another important DNS record which I currently do not use is
sets an alias from one domain to another, the real domain. E.g. you could
www.sprakit.com as an alias to
sprakit.com. It’s also possible to
set something like
sprakit.com if they both use the
same server (and thus the same A record).
Routing domain and subdomain to different servers
If you still remember the task from the beginning: We wanted to set different
servers for the main domain and the subdomain. So
sprakit.com should be
handled by another server than
beta.sprakit.com. Knowing about A records
and how DNS is resolved, this is a simple task.
We need of course the standard nameserver entries for NS. And then we set
the IP of server 1 for the A record of
sprakit.com, while set the
IP address of server 2 for the A record for