Custom Domain Names

dotCommunity offers all website administrators the ability to use their own domain to access their website.

Every dotCommunity website is initially given a unique URL on the service on which it is running. e.g., if you had a website called "Demo Website" it might be at http://e-voice.org.uk/demosite/

However, if you have registered the domain mydemosite.com, then you could set it up so that your website was accessible at http://www.mydemosite.com/ instead.

Setting up your website to use a custom domain is a two step process:

  1. Update your website configuration to allow the use of your chosen domain name.
  2. Update the DNS settings for your domain name to point to the IP address of your site.

Part 1 can be done by any administrator of your website. Or, it can be done by the sitewide administrator of the service.

Part 2 is done using the control panel provided by the registrar from whom your bought your domain name.

Part 1 - Updating Website Configuration

To update the domain names to use with your website, go to Website Settings -> Site Domain in your site's admin pages. On this page you will see a simple form with which you can add domain names for your website.

Add Domain Name

Simply enter the doman name you wish to use for your site.

You can add several domain names for your site if you wish to, by repeating this process multiple times. For example, you may wish to use your domain name both with and without "www", in which case you would add both "www.mywebsite.com" and "mywebsite.com".

Once you've added your domain name(s), below this form you will see the status of each domain name. A bit like this:

Domain Names

Initially, the Status column for each domain name will probably say Wrong IP Address. This is becuase you haven't done Part 2 yet, so don't worry about it!

If you have multiple domain names you can choose to make one of them the Primary Domain by ticking the appropriate box. This means that if someone visits your site using any of the other domains then they will be redirected to the primary domain name instead. This makes things less confusing for your visitors, and also helps with search engine rankings.

Note that the system will not use your domain name until it detects that the DNS is configured correctly. It does this automatically, so once you set up your domain name correctly then the system will automatically start using it for your site.

Once you set up your DNS it can take several hours for the change of settings to take effect, so please be a little bit patient.

Part 2 - Configuration of the Domain Name

For this, you will need the IP Address that is shown on the Website Settings -> Site Domain page of your site's administration pages. You will see a line on that page which reads:

Note: This server is running on <name of system> with IP Address <ip address>

The IP address is four numbers separated by dots. For example it might be 46.20.114.134

There is no trailing dot - so only three dots in total!

Now that you have the IP address for your system, you need to configure your domain.

This step cannot be done through dotCommunity, it can only be done via the company that the domain was bought from. Typically the company that sells the domain will also provide a web interface that allows the domain owner to configure the DNS settings.

Your ultimate aim is to set up an A Record for your domain pointing to the IP Address provided by your sitewide administrator.

The method for setting an A Record with an IP Address varies depending on the registrar of your domain. Typically the steps are a bit like this:

  1. Log in to the website of the company from which the domain name was bought.
  2. Select the domain that you wish to configure, (e.g. "mywebsite.com")
  3. Go to the DNS Settings for the domain. (There will probably be a link like "DNS Settings" or "DNS Management" or similar)
  4. If an A Record already exists, replace it with the IP Address provided by the sitewide administrator.
  5. If no A Record exists, create a new one which points to the provided IP Address.

Sometimes you can set a separate A Record for the entire domain ("mywebsite.com") as well as the www subdomain ("www.mywebsite.com"). In which case you can set both.

Note that changes to your DNS settings can take up to 24 hours to propagate through the Internet.

Once the server notices that you have changed your DNS settings, it will automatically start using the domain name for your website.

More Specific Instructions

Here are a few instructions for configuring your domain which are more specific to your domain registrar. If your registrar is not listed here then try the general instructions above, or you could contact us and we'll see if we can add it!

Buying a Domain Name

There are lots of companies around that sell domain names, and it doesn't matter which one you choose. Cambridge Open Systems don't recommend any companies over any others - they all offer similar services.

We have successfully used the following companies to buy domain names:

Whichever provider you choose, you only need to buy the domain, and you don't need to pay for any extra hosting services. The cost is usually around £5 to £10 per year, though this depends on the particular domain name.