There can be several moving parts to a website. Three big ones are the domain name (the .com address), the hosting (the space on a hard disk somewhere where the website lives, from which your web browser will download it) and the DNS (the Domain Name System which translates the human-friendly .com address to the string of numbers — soon numbers and letters — that computers need to find the hosting).
From a management point of view it's often easiest to have all three of these handled by the same company, and that's a very common setup. I'm not too keen on the “eggs in one basket” feel of that, though, and I tend to have the domain name and the hosting for any given website in different places, with the DNS taken care of by one or the other.
I have domains registered all over the place, so keeping track and making updates takes a little bit of doing. I was also thinking about getting in a complete separation, with DNS taken care of by a third provider.
So, I tweeted:
Contemplating a specialist DNS host, rather than scattering amongst domains' registrars. DNSMadeEasy, DNSimple, who else should I look at?
I got quite a response back, both from friends and colleagues and from DNS hosts who were watching the tweets go by. My research into possible hosts, partly informed by the twitterly response, turned up a number of possibilities.
DNS Made Easy
The first of the two I was vaguely aware of, DNS Made Easy comes recommended by Aaron, who is a difficult man to please. They also sent me a friendly, not too pushy, tweet or two. For my needs, I'd be looking at US$60 a year, probably plus a few US$2s per year for domains beyond the 25 included in that price.
DNSimple was the other one I kind of knew about, although I can't remember who recommended them to me. A bit more expensive than DNS Made Easy, at US$10 per month. However, that's for 50 domains and they have a bunch of other useful features and offer a broader range of records for the DNS. They, too, sent me a friendly tweet.
Two separate Dyn reps jumped on my tweet. The second one was a little intense. I emailed the first guy to see which of their offerings would suit my needs. They offer a few nice features, especially around import and export of sets of records, but US$95 per month is a fair bit more than I was planning on spending. (Dyn are the folks behind DynDNS, which I have a paid account with as well. That's a good service, but not quite the same thing as I'm looking for.)
David chimed in with a recommendation for Nettica. Their Bulk DNS service sounds pretty great, especially the template setup and the straightforward-as-a-straightforward-thing US$50/50 domains/year pricing.
Stuart, supported by Ryan, really likes Hover. It's not really what I'm looking for, though, as it's a registrar with good DNS management. I'm not looking to shift domain registration at the moment, and it misses the separation I'm after.
Amazon Route 53
Amazon's Route 53 is part of the Amazon Web Services lineup, and I kind of half expected it to be the answer I was after. Pricing of US$1/domain/month, plus low per-request charges, place it at the higher end of the mid-price range. However, there's no control panel — everything is done with straight API calls by feeding a little Perl script with XML. While I may be intrigued by the possibility of writing a decent client, I don't want to have to faff about with that in the meantime.
I have none solid, yet. Hover's out, as it's not really what I'm after. Dyn is too expensive and Route 53 is too fiddly. That leaves DNS Made Easy, DNSimple and Nettica. All the services make nice, reassuring promises about uptime, with a couple of solid guarantees in there, but everyone has downtime sometimes. I'm working on the basis that a reputable provider will manage it acceptably.
My decision would be an approximate toss up between the first two, with a slight bias to DNSimple for their wider range of services, but I am intrigued by Nettica's Bulk DNS service. A little more research is in order, then. Shifting a whole bunch of domains around is too painful to want to do it more than once.