A DNS challenge for Mercator.tv

Mercator.tv's website was set up correctly, but could not be accessed through their domain name. After months of searching, they ended up with Experience Lab who got the site up & running in under an hour.

Could we get the Mercator.tv website live?

We got to know Mercator TV as entrepreneurs with a heart for sustainability. Mercator TV is a socially responsible production house for film and video, with plenty of creativity and a sense of adventure. Two young Antwerp people who want to bring change to the polluting environment of film. 

The only thing was that the digital side of things didn't really work out. The website was hosted, but it was not visible through the domain name. A short meeting with the web designer mapped out the problem, after which XLab could get to work launching their website. One hour later, paid by the hour, the domain name mercator.tv led to their digital hub.

The problem lay with the connection between the proprietary CMS (content management system) and the domain host, which meant that when the domain name was visited, the DNS server could not redirect the visitor to the correct IP address.

What is DNS?

DNS, in full domain name system, is a translation system from the Internet to human language. Computers each have their own IP address, a string of numbers, that they use to communicate and locate. DNS translates the domain names we want to look up into the IP addresses needed to communicate between computers.

Browser and computer first check to see if they already know the IP number of the domain name. This is done in the computer's DNS server. Stored domain names the computer finds in its cache. If the computer and browser do not know where an address should lead, the information is requested from a DNS server. 

Via queries the DNS server presents the domain to the name server. The name server in turn traces the domain and associates an IP address with it. We call this link a DNS record. This allows the computer to display the website. The path of the domain is stored in the computer's cache.

What was the problem with the Mercator TV website?

The Mercator TV website uses Cargo as its CMS (content management system). Cargo's name servers linked the IP address to the correct domain, mercator.tv. But the domain name was hosted by Greenhost, linked to a mailbox. As soon as the name servers would be changed to Cargo, the mailbox at Greenhost would no longer work. 

In addition, Cargo did not have the proper set-up and documentation available on the website. This meant that it was not possible to redirect a main domain via an A-record to a possible subdomain.

How did we solve this?

The main domain is mercator.tv, with www.mercator.tv as the subdomain. 

We linked the subdomain to Cargo via a CNAME record, which is in full a canonical name record or alias record. A CNAME record ensures that the www subdomain takes over the DNS settings (as an alias) of Cargo. This way, it is possible to make the website available on the www subdomain, and keep the mailbox at the same time. We then provided a redirect in Greenhost (the provider where the domain name was hosted) from the main domain to the www subdomain, so that visitors who surfed directly to the main domain would automatically arrive at the correct Cargo site.

We built our own tool

It often takes up to 48 hours for new DNS settings to come through all over the world, so it's often difficult to check if changes are already live. 

To check this, it is best to run the domain through a DNS checker. This will ask a whole series of DNS servers around the world which A records or IP addresses are attached to a domain name. 

We have made our own DNS checker available to you so that you can quickly and easily see how your DNS changes are coming along worldwide. Discover our tool here.