A quick introduction to how domain names work!
A domain name is basically an online postal address, which contains a number of address records. These records tell the internet, for example, which specific web server should load your webpages and which mail server should handle your incoming emails.
When making changes to your domain name, these records get updated and published for all the other computers on the internet to read.
In simple terms, ISPs (Internet Service Providers, such as Virgin Media, BT Internet, etc) and often corporate IT networks store their own address book of the internet, containing these records, which helps speed things up, rather than having to double check your address details every single time someone wants to reach your domain name.
ISPs often cache your domain name’s address details for several hours at a time, or sometimes for one or two days.
So what does this mean for my domain name?
If any changes are being made to your domain name, such as if you’re moving your domain name from an external provider to Primary Image, then it can take a while for the changes to take effect.
It means some visitors may see the changes (i.e. your new website) straight away as their ISPs have already updated their records, while other visitors may not see the changes just yet (e.g. they might see your old website, or a temporary error message).
Typically, this process takes a few hours, but on rare occasions it can take up to 72 hours.
If we’re moving your domain name away from an external provider, that company may also take a while to release the domain name too.
Unfortunately, the time it takes for domain propagation is completely out of our control, as it’s a fundamental part of how the internet works.
What precautions should I take during this time?
As your website and email may go offline for a few hours, we normally suggest doing any changes to your domain name over a night, or across a weekend, when it’ll have the least impact on your business.
If you’re moving your website like-for-like (e.g. from another web host to Primary Image) we strongly recommend not doing any edits to your website around the time of the transfer. This is because they’ll be two copies of your website in existence, so if you make an edit on the old copy, this may not be reflected in the new copy of the website.
If you are accessing your website or emails via a corporate IT network (e.g. your workplace or education establishment), and you’re not seeing the new changes after 24 hours, we recommend contacting your organisation’s IT support team. Although this is rare, some internal IT networks, especially where your internet access is routed through firewall systems, are misconfigured and do not recognise domain name changes for several days. In this scenario, please tell your IT support team to “flush the DNS settings” for your domain name.