DNS, Subdomains, and Mapping, Oh My!

Several years ago, I started up this blog right around the time I acquired the domain of my own name. Back then, I had zero experience with the Domain Name System (DNS) and didn't really understand the difference between mapping a domain and redirecting from one domain to another. So I asked the advice of a very geeky friend.

"Stick with redirects, " he said. "Domain mapping can be a tricky thing. There are 500-page books out there about DNS."

Clearly my very geeky friend did not feel like helping me that day, and I didn't want to read a 500-page book about DNS, so I steered clear of domain mapping altogether. Once I switched over to Typepad, all that really meant was that when you visited my website, instead of seeing 'sarahlane.com' in the URL, you saw 'sarahlane.typepad.com'. It didn't bother me.

But then it started to bother me a little. As I've joined more services and acquired more blogs over the years, it's begun to make a lot more sense why people want to organize as much of their online life as possible under the umbrella of a single domain. It's like branding yourself well.

After thinking long and hard about it for five minutes, I decided to map the subdomain 'blog.sarahlane.com' to this Typepad blog, map the subdomain 'tumblelog.sarahlane.com' to my Tumblr tumblelog, and leave my domain 'sarahlane.com' unmapped and free to use as I please. In theory, these tweaks aren't a big deal. A few CNAME entries and I should have been good to go. But the issues began when I started making DNS changes with my registrar when I should have been making them with my web host (consider using your registrar as your web host if you have issues with organization. Seriously). I won't go into the gory details of my personal DNS hell, but let's just say tech support people sometimes withhold very important information for no explicable reason at all (I mean clearly they're bored and resentful having to read 500-page books about DNS all day, but still). Every time I incorrectly updated my name servers, my server went down. Server, server, server. If you look at the word 'server' long enough, it really becomes ridiculous, doesn't it? SER-VER.

The beauty of DNS is that depending on where in the world you are, DNS changes can take between 12-72 hours to reach you. So a lot of my tech support phone calls sounded very similar to the following exchange:

  • Me: Ok, I did what you asked. My site is still down. What's going on?

  • Them: Mmmm... yeah. I can pull up your site just fine. So. Yeah.

  • Me: Trust me, I can't. I would not lie about something like this.

  • Them: Yeah, well. DNS... Propagate... Server... Caching... Flushing... Wait 48 hours.

I'm currently unemployed, which in many ways is a very positive thing. I get to eat all day in my pajamas and I rarely have to bathe. It's kind of awesome. But I'm also glued to my computer all day every day writing, editing, looking for work, and so on. I really can't wait for 48 hours for my website to magically reappear, especially after I've just emailed about four thousand people the link to my resume. 48 hours is like looking across a vast sea of infinite nothingness. I dislike the rules of DNS very much.

As of this afternoon my site's back up, so I'm going to stop crying and consider taking a shower. My mail server has also taken a beating, so if you sent me an email anytime in the past five days, I have probably not received it, and may never receive it. I'm sure it was a good email though. Well, unless you're Brad from Australia. I don't know what's up with that guy.