Managing DNS definitely sounds like one of the more difficult tasks when it comes to hosting a domain, but don’t worry! It’s actually not all that difficult once you get through the highly technical sounding terminology. I often say that DNS is a bit like an onion: There’s many layers to it, and it’s very likely that you’ll cry if you try to get through them all.
DNS is, at its simplest, a list of records that specify name X points to this IP address: 188.8.131.52. You’ll likely encounter A records the most; they’re used to point your domain to where its website is hosted. Any given domain could have just a couple or many DNS records. See below for the different types of records and how they work, as well as how to configure them in Plesk.
We’ll leave the bulk of how DNS works for another time, but this guide will help you with the remarkably easy (albeit daunting) task of updating, adding, or removing DNS records for your domain in Plesk.
Important: due to the manner in which the global DNS system works, any changes made to your domain’s DNS records can take up to 48 hours to complete, though often the changes are visible within just a few hours. Please be patient! You can check the global progress here, but it’s not likely to correlate with your own local DNS.
How to find your DNS settings in Plesk
First, we’ll need to log in to Plesk, after which we’ll be taken to the Websites and Domains screen. Click on “DNS Settings” for the domain you wish to edit.
Now you have several options; you can add, edit, or remove a DNS record, or even turn off the DNS service (Disable) or switch it to slave mode (Master/Slave), as seen below.
If you only see NS records in the list and no others, it’s because your DNS is disabled. The first button on the left will be “Enable” — click this if you wish to manage your DNS within Plesk (to manage your DNS within Plesk, you must have your name servers set at the registrar to match those for your hosting plan as shown in the Client Centre).
Identifying DNS Records
If you’re not sure which records you should be editing, this list will help you to understand and find the correct records for each type of hosting service:
- Website: This should be your root DNS record which controls where visitors are sent when they’re accessing your domain like mydomain.com. This is a record of type A where the Host column shows only your domain (with a period after it; they all have that) and not a subdomain like mail or ns1 or ftp. There is also typically a CNAME record for www.mydomain.com which points to mydomain.com. Warning: keep an eye out for when *other* records (like mail records) are CNAME’s that point to your root record, as that means changing your root record will change them too.
- Inbound Mail: This is controlled by MX records that have two components. 1) A record of type MX with no subdomain in the Host column and which points to another record in the list like mail.mydomain.com. Be sure to also check the mail.mydomain.com record to ensure it’s pointing to the right place. For example, if it’s a CNAME for your root record and you’ll be changing your root record, then this is something you’ll want to alter before you make the root record change.
- Mail IMAP/POP/SMTP Connectivity: This differs in other configurations, but for Plesk typically mail.mydomain.com is used for this purpose as it’s the same server as your Inbound Mail (MX) server. Ultimately this isn’t that important since we direct you to use our server hostname when connecting with your mail apps.
Removing a DNS Record
To remove a record, simply check the box beside the ones you wish to remove and click the Remove button. After doing so, you will be presented with the option to finalize your changes — make sure you do this or the alterations will not take effect.
Adding or Editing a DNS Record
To edit a DNS record, simply click on it and you will see a page similar to the one below.
To add a new DNS entry, click the “Add Record” button and you’ll be taken to the following page:
There is a “Record type” drop-down which allows you to select the type of DNS entry to add.
As described above, if you only see “NS” or “Name Server” in the list of record types, your DNS is disabled and you must go back and click the button to enable your DNS. See above under the “How to find your DNS settings in Plesk” heading for more info.
Select the type of record below to see the individual processes in more detail:
The “A” record is the most common type of record for DNS – it links a domain name (or subdomain) to an IPv4 Address. An IPv4 address is the 12-digit number you often see when dealing with websites or even your own home network. It is in the format: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
When adding an A record there are two input boxes; the subdomain and the IP address. If you input “testing” in the subdomain box, and a corresponding IP address in the IP address box, you will have created a subdomain “testing.yourdomain.com” pointing at that IP address. Enter the information and click “OK”.
This process is the exact same as above, however the “AAAA” indicates that it is an IPv6 address. These addresses appear in the following example format: 2002:7b7b:7b7b::1
A CNAME (or Canonical Name) record is an alias. When a website visitor’s browser or mail user’s app looks up the entered subdomain, the DNS system will respond by indicating that the IP address for the subdomain is the same as whatever target you enter here.
The most common use for a CNAME record is to indicate that the www subdomain shares the same IP address as the root domain record. For example www.websavers.ca is hosted on the same IP as websavers.ca. Note that this doesn’t mean it will forward all requests for www.websavers.ca to websavers.ca — this action is up to the web server! See here to learn how to set your preferred domain.
Enter the subdomain (or leave blank to apply a CNAME for the root domain itself) and put the target for the alias in the “Canonical domain” field.
The MX (Mail eXchange) record is incredibly important; this record tells email servers where to send mail sent to your domain. In our default setup it is pointed to “mail.yourdomain.com”, which is set up as your mail server. This may need to be changed if you are using external email services, like Office 365 or Google Apps for Business for your email.
The MX DNS screen has three fields:
- The domain (or more specifically the field references a subdomain) to receive mail for.
- This should be left blank/empty to configure mail on the primary domain. You would only enter a subdomain if you want to receive mail for accounts like email@example.com — most people do not want this.
- The destination mail server.
- In our cases, this is mail.yourdomain.com
- This value must not be an IP, instead it should be an A or CNAME record. For example, if your mail server is at 184.108.40.206, then you would create an A record like mail.yourdomain.com and point that to 220.127.116.11, then set your MX record destination to be mail.yourdomain.com
- The priority of the mail exchange server.
Priority is an entirely new concept that doesn’t exist with the other record types above; it’s used in the case of having backup mail servers – as you would if you used Google Apps for Business. It basically says “Send mail here, if it fails there, try this one. If that fails, try this one.” If you’re configuring a MX, the instructions you’re following should also give you examples of what the priorities should be.
If you’re mirroring/copying your MX records from another DNS host and the priority numbers they use are different from what’s available in Plesk, just pick the closest numbers available. The specific number is irrelevant: only the order matters.
Lower numbers mean higher priority and therefore the first entry to pick when delivering mail. If that server doesn’t respond it will move on to the next lowest number in sequence.
This section is woefully blank as PTR records do not work with our setup; if you have a dedicated IP address with Websavers and want a rDNS configured, please reach out to us directly.
TXT record (also SPF Record)
The TXT Record is one of the most commonly edited records for new webmasters. Why is this? Because it’s invaluable for verifying domain ownership for companies such as Google, Microsoft, GoDaddy, and other online service providers.
It’s also the type of DNS record used to publish SPF records, which is an excellent method of curbing email forgery. Read more about how SPF works here.
In most cases you do not require to have an entry for the domain portion of this; Google, for example, wants this section left blank. In the TXT field, the second field on the screen, you enter the verification string provided to you.
This is the SRV screen. It is the most daunting of all the DNS entries, and is generally only needed for advanced users. If you’re setting up an auto discover service for Office 365, or Skype for Business, or another service that requires a SRV record: Don’t panic! It’s not quite as bad as you may think.
Often, a SRV record is displayed in the following format:
This format, when broken down, means:
Service name: sip
Protocol name: tcp
Domain name: example.com
So, if you’re presented with something like this:
_autodiscover._tcp.yourdomain.com priority 100, weight 1, port 443, yourdomain.autodiscover.outlook.com
That just means that in the above fields, you would put in:
Service name: autodiscover
Protocol name: tcp
Domain: (leave blank)
Priority: 100 (Plesk maxes out at 50, go ahead and use 50)
Weight: 5 (Plesk goes from 0 to 5 before increasing further)
Target port: 443
Target host: yourdomain.autodiscover.outlook.com
With this information, a mail client – for example – trying to auto detect settings, checks out your domain, it will see that for an “autodiscover” request, it should connect to yourdomain.autodiscover.outlook.com on port 443 to get the information – pretty clever!