What is DNS?
DNS is a TLA (three letter acronym, see what we did there?) for "domain name system." Think of DNS like a phone book (remember those?) that matches your domain name with a set of numbers known as an IP address. The IP address is how computers find each other on the Internet - like contacts in your smart phone.
For example, you might not know your Uncle Bob's phone number, but you know his name, so you tap on your screen, and in seconds he's chatting away. The phone looked up the number for you.
How does it work?
When you type "noviams.com" into your web browser, the browser looks up the IP address for that name, and once it has it, it can start communicating with the computer where that site lives.
To achieve this, we had to store this name-to-number mapping on a DNS server, which in our case, is hosted by the company that registered the domain name.
How do I know where my domain name is registered?
Your domain name was registered by a domain name registrar (e.g. GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.), who, in turn, designates the domain name servers where your DNS records will live. In most cases, the registrar's DNS servers are used.
If you have a website, you have a domain name already, and it's currently pointed at a website that will be retired when your Novi site is ready for launch. At that point, your DNS records are mapping your domain name to the IP address of your old website service provider or another AMS.
How does this affect launch?
When everything is ready, and it's time for your Novi site to launch, your DNS record has to be updated to point to our system. This can happen in one of two ways:
- You or your IT staff manage DNS yourself. In this scenario, there are two steps to the process. First we will ask you to add a couple of DNS records used to verify that you control the domain name. Second, when your site is ready, we'll ask you to point the primary domain name and the "www" subdomain to an IP address for our system along with a few other records for security certificate & email verification.
- Not every organization will have a technical contact in-house or on a volunteer basis who can handle this setup. Your domain name is a central hub for multiple points of your technology infrastructure, and changes here can affect other services such as your email or other websites your organization owns. It's important someone understands that ecosystem and makes the changes in a knowledgeable way to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. The Novi team has recommendations for technology service contacts who can help you manage this transition - refer to our Consultants page for details!
Other things to know about DNS:
Your DNS records have other functions as well. They're will not need to be changed to launch with Novi, but you should know about them. The first is that there is a record (called an "MX record") that lets mail servers know where to send your email. Usually these records point to Google's Gmail or Microsoft's Office365, but it depends on the service you use. Other records are used to verify you control and own the domain, like analytics accounts.
The other most common non-Novi thing you might do is point a subdomain at another service using DNS. For example, this help site uses "help.noviams.com," a service we use from a third party. We had to add a DNS record for "help" to point to that service.
Will Novi register my domain name?
Simply put, your domain name is your identity, and we believe that you should own it. It's as important as the name of your association itself. Depending on the domain registrar, it can also be difficult to transfer ownership of a domain from one party to another, so you will be responsible for registering your domain name.