Hack: How to switch DNS painlessly from Godaddy to Zerigo

UPDATE: I CANNOT RECOMMEND ZERIGO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. ON DEC 31, 2013 THEY ANNOUNCED THEY ARE TERMINATING EXISTING PRE-PAID ANNUAL PLANS TO FORCE MIGRATION TO PLANS THAT COST ALMOST 20 TIMES MORE, INSTEAD OF GRANDFATHERING EXISTING PREPAID PLANS TO COMPLETION. However this post is STILL RELEVANT of you need to migrate away from Godaddy to another DNS provider (such as Amazon Route 53) that accepts zone files.

If Godaddy’s ‘free’ DNS has caused one too many “website not found” errors for you, there are lots of DNS providers to choose from.

Since I had several domains to move, ease of moving my existing DNS records was a factor (as well as cost, reliability, etc.).

I chose Zerigo’s $19/year plan, which also permits import and export of zone record files.

For simple domain setups Zerigo has neat little ‘snippets’ that will automatically add common sets of DNS records, such as “Godaddy Email” or “Heroku web app hosting”.

But if you want to export your existing DNS records from Godaddy to Zerigo, here’s the magic decoder ring:

  1. Godaddy’s basic DNS does not have an export capability. But their Premium DNS does, and it’s fully refundable within 5 days. So, upgrade your Godaddy DNS to Premium for one year at about $35 (then be sure the cancel it as soon as you’re done exporting your DNS records).

  2. In your Godaddy My Account, click Premium DNS, then choose each domain you want to export and export it. It’ll save a .zip file. Extract the zip file (inside the folder created will be a text file called mydomain.com.zone)

  3. OPTIONAL Godaddy’s default “TTL” is 3600 but you might as well change it to 300 so any changes you make happen more quickly. So if you care about this, edit each Zone file, doing a global replace of 3600 with 300 (make sure you replace ‘whole words’ only with your search and replace).

  4. At Zerigo’s DNS control panel, for each domain you want to import, click “add” then click “Import Zone file” then specify the domain name and the .zone file you export.

  5. At Godaddy, cancel the Premium DNS so you get a full refund.

  6. In Godaddy’s normal DNS manager, set the name server for the exported domains to the once indicated in yoru Zerigo control panel (probably A.NS.ZERIGO.NET B.NS.ZERIGO.NET C.NS.ZERIGO.NET D.NS.ZERIGO.NET E.NS.ZERIGO.NET). In Godaddy’s ‘set nameserver’ dialog, click “add more” to add that fifth one.

There you go… you just switched DNS to a more reliable (IMO) DNS system in minutes, withing having to re-enter a single DNS record.