Domain Transfers, DNS Propagation & Other Factors
So you have finally decided to move on to a new hosting company. The reasons do not matter – the planning does. Not taking the inherent delays into account can leave you frustrated and wishing you had never even started the process.
For business, interrupted mail and a website that may or may not work are not options. Planning your move properly can save you a lot of headaches. At HOSTAFRICA, we try to make the transfer as painless as possible, but there are often factors outside our control that can be frustrating to all parties. What are these delays and why do they even exist?
- Transfer delays: The transfer process involves a third-party over which neither hosting company has any control. This third-party is called the DOMAIN REGISTRAR. Domain transfers can happen within an hour or two or be delayed and take up to seven days. This is due to different mechanisms that various registrars employ to prevent domains from being easily hijacked. One of these is a built-in waiting period to ensure that everyone has enough time to react. Most of the time, domains local to your country (in South Africa, that would be all .za domains) transfer really quickly. The .com domains can often be delayed the most.
- Human delays: Most domain transfers require a response from the registered contact person for that domain. If that email address is not reachable or the person does not respond, it will delay the transfer.
- Registrar delays: Some registrars have specific requirements such as that your DNS servers have to be on different IP addresses, preferably on different subnets. Not meeting this requirement could also leave you waiting for a domain that may transfer, but will not go active.
- Mitigating steps: Try to get the co-operation of your old hosting company and ask them to point your DNS records to your new hosting company a few days before you request the transfer. If you are on really good terms, ask them to reduce the TTL values on your DNS records to around 1200 seconds. This will make any record changes appear within 20 minutes. If you cannot do this, try to move your domain before you move your hosting and get your NEW hosting company to point the DNS to your OLD host until you are ready to do the final move. This will really minimize your downtime. Also, ensure that your domain contact details are not the hosting company and especially NOT ON THE SAME DOMAIN. Use an independent email address such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com.
DNS Propagation delays
All DNS records a set of TTL (Time To Live) values. These values are there to allow the DNS record to be cached (stored temporarily) so that every request does not always have to cause a new lookup. The values are anywhere from 5 minutes to 7 days. This means that moving the SOA (Start of Authority) record, which has a typical TTL of 7 days, could only show up in 7 days. To combat this, record your TTL values, then lower them all to 1 hour (3600 seconds) at least 1 week before your move. In this way, the DNS propagation delay will be reduced from up to 7 days down to 1 hour. After the domain move, change the values back to their original values.