Names, DNS, and Propagation
Domain names and propagation - a waiting
to client support center)
So, you type in your
domain name but can’t see your
site. Or, you can see your site but
your e-mail isn’t working yet
(or vice-versa). Here’s a layman’s
example about the topic.
A Domain Name is a Shortcut
A domain name (like www.somedomain.com)
is actually a shortcut. The shortcut
actually points to an IP address (like
123.456.789.99). Domain names were
created simply as an easier way to
reach a website.
In the majority of cases, however,
an IP address (like noted above) is
actually the IP of a large computer
hosting a website (like yours). There
could be 100s of other websites hosted
there – that’s typically
how it works.
So the “shortcut” to your
site (your domain name) first has
to reach the computer hosting your
website. Once there, that computer
has to realize that this surfer is
looking for your website – not
someone else’s. So it simultaneously
"looks up" the "records"
of the websites hosted on that computer
– and sends the user to the
right site – yours.
These "records" could be
considered a spreadsheet that’s
updated every so often. It happens
at different intervals – sometimes
hourly – sometimes daily –
or even every few days. It depends
on the hosting company. Only when
these records are updated will people
be able to reach your site by typing
in your URL.
It’s important to note that
e-mail addresses @yourdomain.com follow
the same rules. However, there is
a nearly identical but secondary list
of “records” that handle
e-mail – and this list of records
is updated separately but in the same
fashion. So you might be able to surf
to your site but not get e-mail, or
vice-versa. Note that this has nothing
to do with individual e-mail users
– rather, all e-mail users @yourdomain.com
are affected the same.
Then, there is a quite similar aspect.
We don’t control the domain
name itself – your "registrar"
does – that’s the place
you reserved your domain name. We
(or you) can log into their site.
Once we do, we have the ability to
"point" that domain name,
in effect, to the IP address of the
computer hosting your website. Similar
to what’s noted above, these
registrars keep "records"
of what domain names should point
to what IP addresses. They then make
these "records" public.
Then, Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
like AOL, Comcast, Bellsouth, Earthlink,
etc. go and view these "public"
records and then update their master
list of "records". This
also happens at different intervals
– sometimes hourly – sometimes
daily – or even every few days
– each ISP is different. Furthermore,
many big ISPs have different "hubs"
across the country, and each may update
their records at different intervals.
Thus, your friend on AOL might be
seeing your site at your domain name
just fine. But you can’t see
it through your Comcast ISP. But your
friend in Denver who also uses Comcast
can see it.
This process is called "propagation",
and refers to both the propagation
at the ISP level and at the hosting
Just Hang Tight!
Basically, there is nothing that we
have the power to do to speed any
of this up, as it’s out of our
control. Universal propagation on
all fronts is usually complete (including
all the ISPs nationally), within a
few days. Sometimes, it happens almost
instantly. Or, you may think it’s
done because it works for you, but
the entire West Coast of Comcast users
may be a day behind.
Ultimately, just hang tight and everything
will work within a few days –
or with luck – much sooner.
And the best way to tell if it’s
complete? You guessed it – keep
trying to hit the site or use e-mail
until it works.
On very, very rare occasions, however,
there could be a glitch at any level
of the process. So if the waiting
time seems excessive (more than 4
days), get in touch and we’ll
client support or questions,