How to create branded (custom) name servers

  1. Branded Name Servers (or custom name servers, as some prefer to call them) are your very own name server addresses to use for hosting your websites and your client’s websites.

On all shared or reseller web hosting accounts, we’ve already got name servers (e.g.: ns23.websaversdns.com and ns24.websaversdns.com) that are pre-configured to match the server you’re hosted on. With virtual servers we don’t pre-create name servers for you by default, but these can be requested on-demand.

Who uses branded name servers?

No matter if you have a VPS, reseller, or standard shared hosting account, you’re always welcome to create your own branded name servers.

Why use branded name servers?

Branded name servers are often used in a variety of circumstances:

  1. They’re one extra step to ‘white-labelling’ our hosting service. In other words, they can be used to hide the fact that we’re the ones doing the actual hosting (to a certain degree). This reason isn’t commonly used, but it does come up on occasion!
  2. Those using shared hosting for SEO purposes, like building public blog networks (PBNs) often prefer to use unique name servers for each domain.
  3. The best and most popular reason to use branded name servers is out of technical necessity. By using your own name servers, if you ever decide to move your sites or clients to a new IP address (ie: sometimes changing servers necessitates an IP change), you’ll be able to easily port over the name servers for all domains in one fell swoop, without having to update each domain at the registrar.

How to set up branded name servers

There’s a few steps to this process: gather info, register the name servers, configure the A records, then update the domains you wish to use.

Gather Information

Start by finding out what IP addresses you’ll be using for your name servers. If you have name servers already (like nsX.websaversdns.com) you could do a quick DNS lookup or whois on the existing name servers to see what IPs they’re using and mark those down. Alternatively you can simply check the IP address shown in Plesk (or other control panel) to see what IP you’re using for hosting. With our hosting, that web hosting IP is also used for DNS hosting, though keep in mind that other providers may use alternate DNS server IPs.

If you’ve only got 1 IP address, you only need to set up 1 name server, however most registrars require at least two, so you can use the same IP address for both. If you’re using the same IP, be sure to apply that to all cases below where you see two different IPs — only use the 1 address.

In this example we’ll be using the following as our branded name servers and matching two (dummy) IPs:

  • ns1.mywebsite.net – 127.5.5.5
  • ns2.mywebsite.net – 127.5.5.6

Register Name Servers

Note that .ca domains cannot use themselves as a name server. This means that if your domains is mywebsite.ca you cannot set ns1.mywebsite.ca as a name server for mywebsite.ca. Presumably CIRA mandates this to prevent confusion around how DNS works, even though it is a legitimate configuration for most other TLDs

Log in to the registrar for the domain you will be using to register the name servers. In the case of our example, we’ll be logging in to the registrar for mywebsite.net. Look for an option called “Register Name Servers”.

It’s important not to confuse this with the more commonly used setting to configure the name servers where mywebsite.net will point to for DNS lookups. It should explicitly indicate that it will be registering a name server, probably indicating that it will send it off to the central registry.

If you use Websavers as your registrar, here are the steps to register your name servers:

  1. Login to the Client Centre
  2. Choose Registered Domains from the menu and select mywebsite.net from the list
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the domain configuration and choose “Create a Name Server”
  4. Under the “Create a Name Server” header, enter ns1 as the name server, then supply the IP address you wish to set for the DNS hosting service. In our example, this is 127.5.5.5.
  5. Press Save Changes

Repeat this process for ns2.

You do not have to use ns1 and ns2. Some providers use a naming scheme like “dns01” for example. This is up to you to decide!

Set Matching A Records

Wherever your DNS is hosted for mywebsite.net, log in and add two new records of type A:

ns1.mywebsite.net -> 127.5.5.5
ns2.mywebsite.net -> 127.5.5.6

Although DNS lookups are supposed to obtain their info directly from the central registry, in some cases, DNS providers will take a shortcut and do simple A record lookups. This is why you must also configure simple A records for the name server addresses.

If this step is skipped, you will probably find that some people are able to see your sites using these name servers as operational while others are not.

Final Settings

As with all DNS changes, once you’ve registered your name servers and set the matching A records, you must then wait 24-48 hours for the changes to take effect before using your branded name servers.

Once the wait is over, you can then login to the registrar for any domain for which you wish to use these name servers, and apply them accordingly. 

For example, with our Client Centre, you would log in, choose “registered domains” then select the domain where you’ll be updating the name servers. Under the large “Name Servers” heading, apply your new custom name servers.

As with all DNS changes you must now wait up to 48 hours for the new name servers to take effect.

 

Jordan is a computer, security, and network systems expert and a lover of all things web and tech. Jordan consults with project management for software companies. Jordan is a founder and managing partner at Websavers Inc.

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