Managing DNS with Plesk

Managing DNS definitely sounds like a difficult task, but don’t worry! Once you’re able to get through the highly technical sounding terminology, it’s actually pretty straightforward. 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. We’ll get you through the trickier layers with this guide 🙂

DNS at its simplest is a list of records that specify domain name X (and optionally some of its subdomains) points to an IP address, like: 1.2.3.4. You’ll likely encounter records of type A the most; their primary use is to point your domain to where its website is hosted. Each domain could have just a couple or many DNS records.

We’ll leave the bulk of how DNS works for another time. This guide will help you recognize the different types of records, what they’re used for and how to configure your DNS records in Plesk. This includes 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

If you your domain is registered with us and you have configured its name servers with the option to “Manage my DNS records manually”, then your DNS hosting is managed within our Client Centre and not within Plesk. To proceed, you may pick one of these options:
1) Switch to managing your DNS records within Plesk by either ordering a new hosting plan or using an existing one, then switching your domain’s name server configuration to “Manage my DNS records using my hosting plan or VPS”. After a few hours (up to 24) you will be able to proceed with this guide as normal.
2) Continue managing your DNS records manually: login to the Client Centre > Registered Domains > Settings > Manage DNS. You will be able to manage your DNS records here. The descriptions and much of the settings below are similar. Where Plesk says “Domain Name” our Client Centre says “Subdomain”. As this is an advanced DNS management option, we’ll expect you to be able to translate the steps for managing records in Plesk to manage them manually in the Client Centre.

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.

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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).

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If a guide has told you to add a DNS record, always check to see if one with the same type and subdomain already exists (even if its blank / there is no subdomain in both cases). If it does exist already, you very likely need to edit the exiting record and not create a new one.

Identifying Commonly Edited 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:

  • DNS Records for Website Host: This is what is called 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 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.
  • DNS Records for 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.
  • DNS Records for Mail IMAP/POP/SMTP Connections: 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:

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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:

A records

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”.

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AAAA records

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

CNAME records

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.

MX records

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 me@sub.mydomain.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 1.2.3.4, then you would create an A record like mail.yourdomain.com and point that to 1.2.3.4, 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.

PTR record

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.

SRV records

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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 one long string like this example:

_sip._tls.sipdir.online.lync.com

When adding it to Plesk we need to break it into its separate components:

  • Service name: sip
  • Protocol name: tls
  • Domain name: leave blank (this is used to add it to a subdomain, which is quite rare)
  • Target host: sipdir.online.lync.com
  • Target port: 443

Here’s an example of an autodiscover SRV record:

_autodiscover._tcp.yourdomain.com  priority 100, weight 1, port 443, yourdomain.autodiscover.outlook.com

When adding it to Plesk we get these components:

  • 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!

About Allen Pooley

Allen is a self professed geek and technology lover. He's always playing with one of his various websites, and loves helping customers with theirs. He can often be found with a coffee (light roast, please) in his hand and a smile on his face... or with a plate of bacon. Mmm, bacon.

4 Comments

  1. Tegan Gray on May 20, 2020 at 3:51 am

    Great thanks for sharing. Here is one tip, as an alternative to whatsmydns.net, you can rely on https://dnschecker.org/ for more detailed propagation results, with over 100+ public servers available to check the live propagation results. More to that, you can also add your custom DNS server.

    • Jordan Schelew on May 25, 2020 at 10:34 am

      Thanks Tegan; we have used both before with great success. I’ve approved this comment so others can benefit from this info as well 🙂

  2. Glyn on January 20, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Nice article which solved a simple, but critical and infuriating problem.

    I was trying to add a couple of SRV records for Office 365 Business at my host using Plesk.

    I couldn’t use the Office 365 automatic DNS management because I use subdomains and you have to manage your own DNS settings to be able to do so.

    Microsoft ask you to add two records, _sip and _sipfederationtls. However, Plesk adds the underscores automatically so you end up with __sip and __sipfederationtls, so the answer is use sip and sipfederationtls and all is well.

    That was one of those can’t see the wood for the trees, I’m a dev not a sys admin, desk-head-banging periods.

    Your article helped me see what was staring me in the face.

    Thanks.

    • Allen Pooley on January 22, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Believe me, I understand that pain! Glad the article could help 🙂

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