How to setup a WordPress site without hosting your domain with the web host provider?

A client has recently signed up with a WordPress hosting provider for $4/month. A web developer was subcontracted to design the look and feel, upload content and images, and ensure it is configured to be a linkable subsite of the client’s main web site. Everything was in place on a temporary folder off the web hosts URL. However, when it was time for go-live, we found that the DNS zones have to be transferred over to the web hosting provider, especially if we wanted to use the client’s domain name for the WordPress URL.

Have you run into this issue before? This is true for web hosting providers like 110mb.com, freehostia.com, lunarific.com, or byethost.com. They will get you to change your domain’s name server (NS) records to point to the web host’s name servers which in effect moves DNS administration over to them. This means that you need to recreate all the A, CNAME, or MX records and make sure it is also in their name servers, using the web host’s control panel. Some of the control panel tools are so limited with DNS administration that you can’t duplicate all the DNS records.

We asked technical support if they provided static IP addresses for the web hosted accounts. We could then get the A record for the external domain name to point to that static IP address. We were told it wasn’t available or that it was going to cost us extra. At this point, I was considering a move to goddaddy.com which allowed for static IP addresses, which would allow us to keep NS records at domain name registrar.

Instead of looking at other providers, this is what I did. I used the current IP address of the web host and pointed the client’s dummy domain name on my test PC. I edited my hosts file to make this test happen. That worked. Since the web hosts could potentially change without notice, I concluded that an alias (or a CNAME) record is what we needed instead. This would ensure the client’s domain name was always redirected to that web host. They use host headers to redirect each of their clients to the correct subfolders on their web servers, so this solution would work well.

After making the DNS changes thru the client’s registrar control panel, we made sure the URL was corrected within WordPress. Just go to Settings > General Settings, then change fields “WordPress address (URL)” and “Site address (URL)” accordingly.

Let me know if you need clarification on this and/or how it worked for you when you tried it out.

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