The Myth of DNS Redirects
Something that comes up regularly in our web department are requests for "DNS redirects." These usually come in the form of a request similar to this: "We need to redirect domain A to domain B but we don't want to do it on a web server. We want to do this as a DNS redirect."
There is no such thing.
A domain name server does several things, but when it comes to routing website domains, a DNS server essentially does only one thing — provide the IP address of a hostname. This is generally done through an "address record", also known as an A record (IPv4) or AAAA record (IPv6):
www.stargate.ca IN A 188.8.131.52
There is one other option — a CNAME. Some people mistakenly think of CNAME's as redirects, but they are essentially aliases. CNAME means "canonical name", and they are used as a convenient option to allow several hostnames to share the configuration of another. When the canonical hostname gets updated, they all update together.
myip.stargate.ca CNAME www.stargate.ca
In the above examples, a web request for "myip.stargate.ca" will look up the A record of the canonical hostname "www.stargate.ca", which will return the IP address "184.108.40.206".
That's pretty much it. There is no functionality in the DNS protocol to redirect one domain to another.
So, how do domain redirects happen?
All website redirects, whether for a specific page or an entire domain, require the use of HTTP headers that only web servers and web clients (browsers, spiders, etc.) understand.
None of this happens through a DNS server.
The primary source of confusion are domain name services that blur the distinction between these two functions in their dashboards. For example, GoDaddy allows customers to manage DNS settings and redirects from the same domain dashboard. However, what happens in the background — which is often not noticed or understood — is that GoDaddy is using two different servers for this:
- Their DNS server sets the domain's A record to the IP address of a GoDaddy web server dedicated to performing redirects.
- That web server is then configured with the necessary HTTP redirection header to send the web client to the desired destination.
So, no matter what kind of interface or terminology is used, a website redirection is always done on a web server. Whether it's done through a web server dedicated for the purpose, or the same web server where your website is hosted, there is no technical difference. It all works the same way behind the scenes.
Redirections done at Stargate
A major distinction with web services hosted at Stargate is that we don't provide a self-service dashboard for DNS services. Domain names hosted at Stargate are managed by our technical staff for the benefit of our customers, and therefore we don't bundle DNS settings and redirection services together in one interface.
Instead, all website domain redirections are configured directly on one of our web servers. Customers may set redirections themselves within their web hosting packages, or we can set them upon request.
If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you out.