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Setting up and a web or mail server with a non-cam.ac.uk domain

Before you start the process

Before you start, it is worth reviewing why you want to set up a server with an 'outside' address. While this can be a fully justifiable thing to want to do, occasionally users are not aware that there are also disadvantages.

Reasons you might give to use an outside address

  • The project is unconnected with the University or is cross-institutional
  • Rules do not allow a cam.ac.uk address to be used for your project
  • You want someone else to design and/or manage a website for you
  • You don't like your .cam.ac.uk name or want a 'catchy' address for a particular use

Reasons not to

  • You lose the University brand from your project
  • You won't be searched by the University site-wide search unless you ask us to add you specifically (and only then if the nature of the site allows us to)
  • You will have recurring costs and requirements for reregistration
  • You may later find a need for a service you didn't ask about when you first set up the site, and find your provider can't supply it

What UIS can do for you

  • You can request a group address for a cross-departmental collaboration (see Guidelines for requesting domain names)
  • We can allow outside web designers accounts for the managed web server for a period of time while the server is being set up, sometimes longer.
  • For some purposes we can set up a top-level alias (www.cam.ac.uk/special/) that will redirect to a given address. These are carefully considered on a case-by-case basis
  • We run a managed DNS zone service (MZS) for academic web servers that are located in the cam.ac.uk domain but are known by non cam.ac.uk names. An MZS may also provide DNS entries for mail servers. This is a charged service.
  • We run a managed mail domain service which you can use to provide email addresses in any domain. The domain's managers must be staff and must have Hermes accounts. This is a free service.
  • You can run a mail server on the University network that handles email for non-cam.ac.uk domains. For more information see the rules for administering a mail domain and/or contact .
    .

What you need to set up

To run a server with a non-cam.ac.uk name within cam.ac.uk you require three distinct services:

  1. Registering a domain
  2. Someone to run a Domain name service (DNS) for that domain
  3. Someone to run a webserver to host the web site

The detail of these three processes are further described in the following sections

Registering a domain

Unless you are in the special position of seeking an ac.uk domain (in which case you will need to read this guide on ac.uk domain registration), a domain registration agent will be able to arrange to register your domain name on your behalf. Examples of 'top level' domains are .com, .rg, .net, org.uk - you can register any number but will have to pay for each on a recurrent basis. If you do not pay the renewal fee when it comes due your domain name will stop working and someone else could buy it. When you register your domain name(s) you need to be clear on what basis you are buying it - whether, if you are buying it plus webserver use, you can move the name to another provider and if there are other services or strings attached (see below).

Domain name service

The Domain name service is the look-up service that translates your IP address to a name - without it the name of your computer doesn't exist. The main University DNS covers only cam.ac.uk addresses; the UIS managed DNS service (MZS) can be used where servers are located in the cam.ac.uk domain but are known by non cam.ac.uk names.

Some (but only some) external domain registration agents will provide a DNS when you register domains - if they don't then you will need to find someone else to provide it for you.

If your registration agent provides a DNS, you need to know what you are getting.

  • Do you get www.<domain>?
  • are there limitations to where the name can point?
  • can you have mail addresses using the domain name, if so is it a real mailserver or just forwarding?
  • how many DNS servers do they have and where are they (how long will it take changes to be propagated - can make changes)?

Web site

Do you get website hosting when you register your domain, you need to be clear whether you do, or if there is only provision for forwarding to another location. Additionally:

  • If you do get hosting, do you have banner adverts imposed upon you?
  • How much storage space?
  • What bandwidth is provided and are there download restrictions?
  • Is there a service level agreement (SLA)?
  • Do you get a dedicated machine or space on a shared machine?
  • What facilities are there provided on the machine (CGI, PHP, MySQL, https)?
  • What protocols does the machine allow for access (telnet, ssh, ftp, sftp, WebDav)?
  • How many user accounts do you get and could you get more?

Mail service

The questions you need to think about for email are similar to those for your web site. In addition:

  • If your mail mail domain is hosted offsite and forwards mail to addresses in the University, it will be subject to the University's anti-spam filters.
  • Spam filters are less effective for forwarded mail, so if your requirements are simple a managed mail domain is probably a better choice than a third-party mail forwarding service.

Please do ask advice from your relationship manager or  before embarking on the process.

Last updated: February 2019

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If you have any enquiries regarding UIS network services, or other University network topics, please send an email to:

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