Using a Foreign Nameserver

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While using Dreamhost's nameservers is by far the best option, under some circumstances it may be difficult or impossible. This article will look at the options for making your domain name point to your Dreamhost site using DNS records entered into some other system (such as your registrar's nameserver).

One possible scenario is that you only want one (or a few) of your subdomains to be hosted by Dreamhost. With some registrars it is not possible to "delegate" these subdomains to Dreamhost's nameservers.

Note: If all you want to do is hosting a foreign domain web site (other than .com .net .org) with your Dreamhost account, and you are able to modify Name Servers on your registrar's site, just add the new domain on your Dreamhost panel, then enter Dreamhost's name servers (instead of your default registrar's ones) on your registrar name servers (or DNS) page, then wait for propagation (up to 48h00), and that's it. This article deals with the case where you can (or will) NOT make your domain point to Dreamhost name servers, and/or need to use you registrar's (or another) "foreign" name server.

The Problem

The only way to see your site in a browser is if the following two things are what Dreamhost expects them to be:

  • the domain name (www.example.org) as it appears in the address bar, and
  • the IP address the browser makes an HTTP request to.

To find the IP address, your browser will ask "What IP address is associated with www.example.org?". The computer's answer should match with Dreamhost's answer.

Solutions

In general, you need to do two things:

  • Let Dreamhost know that you want a certain domain name to be associated with a website
  • Make the DNS system resolve that domain name to the IP address that Dreamhost is using for it

Small-scale

If you only want this to work on one computer (for testing purposes, say), it's enough to put an entry in your host file or set your computer to use Dreamhost's DNS servers (in which case you don't even need to own the domain name). But if you want anyone on the internet to have access, you're going to have to set up the DNS records properly.

By IP Address

You could manually enter the IP address [that Dreamhost's nameservers would provide for the domain name, were they active] into the zone file for your domain where the active foreign nameserver is (this would be an A record), but since Dreamhost may change this IP address at any time, this method should only be used if no better choice exists.

Should you wish to do this, it is worth noting that Dreamhost run different instances of Apache on each server so to identify the correct IP addresses you need to use for apache instance hosting your domain, you can find out:

  • From the DreamHost Web Panel: Viewing this information at Domains -> Manage Domains -> DNS (for a specified domain), or
  • From an SSH shell session: $./domain.pl yourdomain.com