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How DNS Works

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is an essential part of how the Internet works and is effectively a naming system for any resources connected to the Internet or a private network. A common analogy is that it operates like a phone directory for the Internet, translating human-friendly hostnames (eg. www.hostaway.net.au) into IP addresses (eg. 203.30.44.22).

When you access a website or send an email your computer performs a DNS lookup, so that it knows which IP address to request information from or send information to. All HostAway hosting accounts include our DNS management tool, found within the HostAway members panel. To enable this tool your domain name needs to be delegated to our nameservers, which are:

ns1.hostaway.net.au
ns2.hostaway.net.au
ns3.hostaway.net.au

This means that HostAway is the authorative nameserver for your domain name, therefore any DNS lookups for your domain name will be sent our way. Our nameservers will then respond to these queries with the DNS settings that have been selected with the DNS management tool.

You don’t have to use HostAway’s nameservers to have a hosting account with us – we can provide you with the IP address for any of our particular servers which you can enter into external DNS records.

DNS is a hierarchial system which means if your domain name expires it will effectively stop DNS lookups, as the domain can no longer resolve to an IP address. This will cause your website and emails to stop working and is why it is very important to renew your domain name before the expiry date.

Due to the billions of DNS requests being processed at any given time, networks often cache the results of a DNS lookup. This is why DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to fully take effect. If you’ve just visted a website your web browser, computer, network and Internet Service Provider can cache the IP address of that website. If the site owner changed their IP address 5 minutes after your visit it might take as long as 48 hours before the outdated IP address is ‘forgotten’ and the new one is looked up. Sometimes you can force your browser or computer to clear their cache (shift + F5 does it on most web browsers) however the records could be cached further up the chain.

If you need to make DNS changes but are uncertain of what to do or what effect it will have please give us a call – it’s always a good idea to double check when editing DNS records.

For a visual explanation of how DNS works please enjoy the video below:

SMTP – Outgoing Mail

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is an Internet standard for sending email and is often referred to by email programs as the ‘outgoing mail server’.

When you setup an email account, whether on a desktop/laptop running Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, or on your tablet/smartphone (walk-throughs can be found here), you will need to select your ‘outgoing mail server (SMTP)’. In most cases you have the option to use your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for outgoing mail however as an alternative you can use HostAway’s mail server. The benefit of using your ISP’s mail server is that you do not need to authenticate yourself, as you are already on their network. The downside is that if you move your device (eg. laptop, tablet or smartphone) onto another network you will not be able to send emails as you cannot authenticate yourself.

When you setup the account you will need to choose IMAP or POP which determines your account type for incoming mail. The next step is to select your outgoing mail server. If you are setting up a desktop PC that will only be connected to your home or office Internet connection then you can safely use your ISP’s outgoing mail server. You may need to contact your ISP to confirm the exact outgoing server to use but the most common combinations are:

ISP Name Outgoing Server
Telstra/Bigpond mail.bigpond.com
iiNet mail.iinet.net.au
Amnet mail.amnet.net.au
Dodo smtp.dodo.com.au

If you are setting up your mail account on a laptop, tablet or smartphone then you may wish to use mail.hostaway.net.au as the outgoing server. You will need to authenticate with your username (full email address) and password, so that you can use our mail server from whatever network you are connected to. Please note that some ISP’s block mail relaying through the default SMTP port of 25, so you may also need to change the outgoing server port (in advanced settings) to 587.

When you send emails through HostAway’s Webmail platforms you will always send via HostAway’s outgoing mail server. If you are setting up a mail account on an iPhone or iPad you can simply visit mail.hostaway.net.au in Safari and it will download the configuration automagically.

If you have any questions regarding your outgoing mail settings please don’t hesitate to contact us.

CMS Explained

A CMS (Content Management System) is software that allows users to edit their website through an administration page or ‘back-end’ without requiring any knowledge of programming. A CMS will normally include a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get) which makes updating website text as simple as using Microsoft Word. These programs also allow non-technical users to add pictures, new pages or other content to a website.

The majority of CMSs require a database in which to store their variables, such as MySQL or MSSQL. When you use an online shopping cart the website will pull the store’s inventory from a database to display pricing, stock levels and other information.

The most widely-used CMSs are currently WordPress, Joomla and Drupal which are all free to download (open source) however there are hundreds of different platforms available. A good web developer/designer is invaluable to create a custom template and configure the website, but after the initial development it is easy for non-technical people to edit and add content as required.

Due to their popularity, open source CMSs are desirable targets for hackers which is why we recommend customers keep their software up to date. New versions are frequently released to deal with new threats or backdoors that hackers inevitably discover. HostAway has created an automated system to remind customers when their WordPress or Joomla sites can be updated, to minimise this risk.

What is IPv6?

You may have heard about IPv6 and wondered what on earth it is and what it will mean for you when this new Internet Protocol is introduced. This article should help to answer those questions:

What is IPv6?
Every device that connects to the Internet is given a unique number known as an IP address. The current model, IPv4, has approximately 4 billion of these unique addresses however with the boom in Internet enabled devices (tablets, phones, TVs, fridges etc) there are very few IPv4 addresses remaining. In other words, the Internet is running out of space! The new model, IPv6, can handle 340 undecillion addresses (that’s 340 trillion trillion trillion or 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) which gives the Internet a _lot_ more room to grow.

The expansion is made possible by the different structure of an IPv6 address, however networks and devices need to be updated in order to understand and communicate with them. Below is an example of how each IP address appears:

IPv4 203.30.44.1 (32 bits long)
IPv6 2001:db8::1234:ace:6006:1e (128 bits long)

What will IPv6 mean to me?
If you don’t deal with Information Technology then you will happily have very little to do with the move to IPv6. It is up to us (and your other IT support providers) to manage the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 without affecting your use of Internet applications.

The transition has already begun and we provide native IPv6 for our colocation and VPS customers* over one of our fibre pathways and IPv6 via tunnelling for an alternate pathway. For our web hosting customers we have begun testing our web server cluster in a ‘dual-stack’ configuration, meaning it will be able to respond to requests over IPv4 and IPv6. We will provide updates on our Twitter feed when this feature has been fully tested and activated.

Once all global networks have completed the switch IPv4 will no longer be required and will be phased out, although this may take a few decades. If you would like to test your IPv6 connectivity please visit http://test-ipv6.com.

 

*If you are a colocation or VPS customer and would like to enable your IPv6 address please contact us.

IMAP vs POP

Many customers have difficulty choosing between IMAP and POP mail protocols when setting up their email accounts, and for good reason – it can be confusing!

POP (Post Office Protocol) is the traditional method used by email programs to retrieve e-mail from a mail server. The important feature of POP is that when you retrieve your email the messages are moved from HostAway’s server to the computer/device you are using. Emails can be kept on the mail server for a number of days before being deleted (this is determined by the advanced settings in your mail program), allowing you to download the messages onto multiple devices before they are purged. POP accounts have a one way communication with our mail server simply pushing a copy of all mail out to each connecting device, leaving each device with its own copy of the emails which must be organised individually. They run fairly autonomously and do not encounter quota issues unless receiving large amounts of mail with attachments or if they are not set to purge old emails frequently enough.

The advantages of POP are:

  • Message storage limited only by the capacity of your computer.
  • Little remote storage required (if you have the default setting to delete emails from the server once they are delivered to your device).

The disadvantages of POP are:

  • Reading your e-mail from multiple computers or e-mail programs results in duplication of filing and deleting emails.
  • Messages are stored locally on your computer. If your computer fails you may lose all your email.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is the other major method used by email programs to retrieve mail. Unlike POP, IMAP keeps your messages on the server, therefore when you click to read an email IMAP presents the message that is stored on the server. IMAP accounts are a two way communication with our mail server where each device talks to our mail server to organise and view mail. All devices will see the same messages and an email that is moved to a folder on one device will be moved on all devices. As an IMAP account leaves all messages on our mail server they require some end user diligence to monitor quota usage.

The advantages of IMAP are:

  • Messages are stored on the server and are not affected if your computer fails.
  • Easily use multiple computers or e-mail programs to read mail.

The disadvantages of IMAP are:

  • Message storage is limited to 100MB (however mailbox quota can be increased).
  • Reading messages while offline requires use of your e-mail program’s Offline mode.

If you plan to view your mailbox from multiple devices (computer, laptop, smartphone) and plan to manage your mailbox size then we recommend using IMAP. If you are simply using one mail program or device (such as Outlook on your Windows PC or Mac Mail on your Apple PC) or don’t want to worry about mailbox quota then we recommend POP.

For help configuring your mail clients to either POP or IMAP simply give us a call on 9249 3646. Or you can view our tutorials at https://www.hostaway.net.au/support/email/

Notes:

  • It is possible to change your email account from POP to IMAP and vice versa, however this is a setting on your mail program (Outlook or Mac Mail for example) and not on the server.
  • All mailboxes are 100MB in size by default. You can allocate more quota to individual mailboxes using the Email Quota Manager in the HostAway Members Panel and if required you can purchase more assignable quota. Please be aware that unless you purge older emails your IMAP account will continue to grow in size over time.
  •  When you send email from some devices it may not save the sent message to your IMAP account by default (eg. An iPhone saves this locally by default). You need to edit your settings to save sent messages to an IMAP folder if you wish for this to be saved within your IMAP account.
  • If you use Webmail you are effectively using IMAP. If you have a POP account and want to use Webmail whilst on holiday make sure you don’t leave your mail program open on your home/office PC or it may download all of your recent emails.
  • Both POP and IMAP accounts will work being used across multiple devices including desktops, laptops, mobile phones and any other email capable device you can think of however the support does vary between account types.
  • SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) refers to outgoing mail, not incoming – both POP and IMAP accounts use SMTP when sending emails. You have a choice of using your ISP’s outgoing mail server or HostAway’s.

Chinese Domain Scam

This scam has been around for a few years however a number of customers have reported a resurgence of this unsolicited email. An example of this scam is:

Dear Manager,

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in Anhui, China. On May,7th,2012, We received HUHUA Company’s application that they are registering the name “YOUR COMPANY NAME” as their Internet Trademark and “YOURCOMPANYNAME.cn”, “YOURCOMPANYNAME.com.cn”, “YOURCOMPANYNAME.asia” domain names etc. It is China and ASIA domain names. But after auditing we found the brand name been used by your company. As the domain name registrar in China, it is our duty to notice you, so I am sending you this Email to check. According to the principle in China,your company is the owner of the trademark. In our auditing time we can keep the domain names safe for you firstly, but our audit period is limited, if you object the third party application these domain names and need to protect the brand in china and Asia by yourself, please let the responsible officer contact us as soon as possible. Thank you!

Kind regards

Angela Zhang

Anhui Office (Head Office)
Registration Department Manager 
Room 1008 Shenhui Building 
Haitian Road, Huli Anhui, China

 

These emails may contain different wording and formatting, however they generally follow these rules:

  • They claim to have received an application by another company who want a .cn domain name that uses your company name or trademark.
  • They claim to be authorised by the CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) which is the Chinese Domain Registry.
  • Their grammar and spelling is often atrocious.
  • They claim they want to help you to stop the other company from registering the .cn domain name in question.
  • The emails often have full contact details including phone, email and fax, making them seem more legitimate.
  • Prices are seldom mentioned (and can be many times more expensive than the going rate).
  • The reply addresses that these emails appear to come from vary, sometimes coming from .cn addresses and sometimes from Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc addresses.

If you receive one of one of these emails don’t reply. Simply delete the email or if you are unsure please contact us.

If you want to register a .cn domain name send us an email and we can check the availability.

Domain Phishing

You are probably familiar with some of the many Phishing attempts circulating the Internet (whereby someone fraudulently tries to acquire your information by pretending to be a trustworthy organisation) however there are a few ‘companies’ that have been mailing out letters for domain name renewals with something that appears to be an invoice.

These letters originate from companies such as Domain Register, Domain Name Group or Domain Renewal Group however they often change their names so please read your letter carefully. They apparently avoid breaking the law by including a small note claiming ‘this is not an invoice’ or ‘this is an invitation to register’. They will also sometimes offer a free iPod or prize but be warned, if they manage to gain control of your domain name you will be hit with very high renewal fees and hosting costs.

If you are in doubt please give us a call – we can quickly advise whether the invoice is legitimate or not! For more information we recommend you visit The Scamwatch Website

Mailbox Quota

You can now edit your mailbox quota through the HostAway Members Panel. Each new mailbox is 100MB in size by default, however with this new tool you can now resize your mailboxes and take advantage of all the space you are entitled to. To access simply select ‘Email Quota Manager’ on the left hand menu within the Members Panel. If you require additional space this can be added in blocks which can be shared across all your mailboxes or allocated to a single large mailbox.

Subdomains

You can now add “subdirectory subdomains” to your website through the HostAway Members Panel with the click of a button. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a subdomain is an extra level to your domain name, allowing you to divide your website into different sections without registering a new domain name, eg. help.hostaway.net.au.

This new self management feature links a folder within the ‘htdocs’ directory of your domain, so that your existing website quota is used for the subdomain. You may recognise this type of subdomain from similar tools like cPanel. We still offer our “classic subdomains” as a separate product, for those subdomains you want to isolate from other sections of your website (in terms of web space, user account and FTP access). If you have any questions about this feature or would like to change your classic subdomains to the new method please contact us.