Name Server Propagation When Launching Your Website
Although most things online work at lightening speeds, there other tasks that can take hours or days to complete, and there’s not much you can do to rush the process. One such example is waiting for a newly launched website to appear. If you find yourself in a state of impatience or confusion after creating a new site or making any changes to your DNS – don’t worry – it’s natural to have a delay between the time you publish your site and when it shows up online. You may even have an old and a new version of your site co-existing before everything gets straightened out.
Why the delay?
Whenever you make changes to your site’s DNS (Domain Name Service), you have to wait for those changes to take effect. This process is known as DNS propagation and can take a few hours to five days before root name servers and cache records across the whole web are updated with your site’s new information. During this time you may get traffic to both your old and new site, and you might notice your site doesn’t work if you add a ‘www’ before the domain name (www.yourdomain.name) but it will work without the ‘www’ (yourdomain.name). Again, this is all completely normal and nothing to worry about. Everything should operate as expected after a few days, so just stick it out and fight the urge to tinker with the DNS.
Need more details?
For the curiously minded, here’s a slightly more detailed explanation of DNS and propagation…
Every time you visit a site through its domain name, you are using DNS. After your type in the domain name and hit enter, your request goes to your local DNS server, managed by your internet service provider (ISP), and the DNS server looks through its cache to find out what it already knows about that domain name. If it knows the associated IP address or has queried records, it will give them to you, otherwise it sends a query to the Root DNS servers.
Essentially, the Root server is what keeps everything organized – all registered domains are added to it, and all expired domains are removed from it. Also, the Root server informs your local DNS about which DNS servers are Authoritative for the particular domain you’re trying to access. Once the local DNS knows the Authoritative DNS server, it queries it to find out the IP address and other details about the domain.
To speed up future queries, the local DNS server then makes a copy of this info (caches it). However, since DNS records change all the time, the server doesn’t keep this cache indefinitely, but will periodically delete it and start the process all over again to ensure it has the latest information. The time it takes for a recorded cache to expire everywhere is known as propagation, and is determined by a Time to Live (TTL) value, which is largely configured by the ISP.
How soon a visitor is able to see your new site mostly depends on their physical location and ISP and is not something your web designer or site host has any control over. Admittedly, it can be hard to remain patient when you’re eager for the world to see your new pages, yet ultimately time is the best solution for propagation issues.