March 7, 2021

DNS: What you need to know for successful ecommerce

Dr Peter Mowforth

If your Domain Name System (DNS) fails then all online ecommerce business stops working. You don’t need to be a network engineer but it’s important to know enough to ensure your online business is robust, resilient and 24/7 (as opposed to 23.9/7 or worse).The single most important item to get right is to make sure that you continue to pay your domain name fees (e.g. yourbusinessname.com). In 2015 Google forgot to re-register the domain name google.com (reference). Theoretically they could have lost their domain and been forced to change the name of their business. Unlikely, but be warned and make sure this doesn’t happen to your business.In a contacts database you can keep information about an individual's email address, mobile phone, fixed phone, postal address etc. The same idea is true for the DNS for your online business identity. Specifically, the DNS includes:

  • MX Records: This is what points emails to where they need to go.
  • A Records: When your web browser tries to go to, for example www.yourbusinessname.com, it’s the A Record that directs you to the IP address (a string of numbers - like a unique phone number) of where your website is being hosted.
  • CNAME: This becomes necessary when you have a big and busy website that needs to be served from a group of web servers rather than a single machine. The CNAME refers to the local group of, for example, load balanced servers each of which have their own IP address.
  • Text Records: This is where information is stored about who owns the domain, who is allowed to administrate the domain, when it needs to be renewed, etc.

In our experience, many of the details held within the DNS are incorrect. This often happens when people register domain names themselves without appreciating the full consequences of errors. A major issue relates to ownership. Our strongest advice is to ensure that the owner (registrant) details are letter-for-letter identical to those held at companies house. A few years ago we had to postpone the launch of a large sportswear ecommerce website by several months because of discrepancies. The Payment Service provider would not allow secure payments through the website because the legal owner details did not match the website owner details.The final point relates to website hosting. There’s no point in spending a lot on a top class website  if customers can’t visit it. We occasionally get tickets from customers who tell us that they can’t see their website so the server must be down. Our experience is that this is rarely the result of the web server being down. The more likely reason is that the customer decided to register and manage their own domain name. To keep costs to a minimum they registered using a cheap domain name business. The problem is that cheap domain name businesses use cheap DNS services. To keep their costs down they use a single computer to hold the DNS details. When that DNS server goes down there is no back up. Anyone wanting to visit the website or send email has their request bounced and the system fails. The web server is still working but there is nothing available to point their website request to where the website is actually hosted. To find out your IP address, use Get-Site-IP. If you type the IP address (string of numbers and dots) into the web browser then you go straight to the website so bypassing the DNS system altogether.INDEZ uses an approach to DNS management that makes use of triplicated DNS servers. If one goes down then there are are two others that will still work. The chance of all three going down is virtually zero. In addition, because these multiple DNS servers are in different parts of the world then when you request the website IP address, the lookup happens more quickly. In summary, this approach makes ecommerce websites faster and much-less likely to fail.

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