Shift DNS to Dreamhost from old email host but not website

I’ve a non-profit with split hosting for its email services and its website.
It has also been approved for hosting by Dreamhost. Dreamhost’s email service and its management suit this non-profit.

Now I want to shift just the needed DNS records from the non-profit’s current email host to Dreamhost (along with the actual hosting, of course) but not change the addresses for the web hosting side from the separate web host. The registrar for the domain-name involved is a fourth party, neither Dreamhost nor either of the two current hosts.
I am hoping I need only change some A-records but cant find any examples or other reassurance. The email hosting is managed via a subdomain labeled “mail.”

The current email host does not use cpanel, which an earlier thread on this forum suggested means the steps to transfer the mailbox contents is not an automatic one via my Dreamhost cpanel. Sigh* The “more complicated” alternative was not described however.

The current email host for this non-profit maintains about 400+ mailboxes of which perhaps 85 are active. Present plans contemplate moving only 50 of those mailboxes, perhaps 25 of which have virtually no stored emails except probable SPAM which need not be moved.

But it would be good to know how to transfer the whole set of 400+, as we could then use Dreamhost to archive and then delete the no longer supported mailboxes. Some of those unsupported mailboxes will be replaced by Dreamhost served forwarders but neither webmail nor storage after deletion are needed for those otherwise unsupported usernames. (I know how to set up forwarders once the domain points at Dreamhost.)

Can someone point me to a walk through for the right order in which to arrange this changeover, to preserve service largely uninterrupted for at least the 50 mailboxes we want to move? The wiki.dreamhost entries about shifting hosts talk largely about combined email and hosting, all shifted at once with one domain. I only want to move the email side, and even then perhaps only as subset of current mailboxes and their content.

Thanks for any advice

The records that you want to add or update on the nameserver are not “A” type records. An “A” record is the address record that translates a name to an IP address.

The records that control email are the “MX” (eMail eXchange) records. These records tell the mailers where to send the email when it is to be delivered to a system.

That is not a good idea. You can’t just relocate 50 email addresses from a domain that is currently hosting 400 email accounts. You must move the whole domain or nothing.

That being said, however, there is nothing wrong with doing three things:

  1. Create a new domain at DreamHost. This needs to be a different name from your current one so that the addresses are distinctly different.

  2. In the old domain, for each account that you want on the new domain, set it up to forward the email from the old domain to the new one. This is done on a per-account basis and not for the entire domain. It is the only way that you can deal with moving just 50 addresses and still leave the other 350 on the old system.

  3. The users would then have to signon or get their email from the new domain rather than the older address.

The best solution is to simply say “everyone is moving to the new system” and don’t bother about moving the addresses that are currently full of SPAM. Let the SPAMers’ mail bounce. Doing it twice is going to be twice as much work.

  1. If you don’t have one already then get a DreamHost “shared hosting” account. This will be the SAME domain name that you currently have. Use the host mirroring system to move the web pages, FTP sties, etc.

  2. Enter the mailboxes for the 350 people and create their address. You will have to assign their passwords and give them their “new” password but once they signon they can change it to whatever they want. They can’t use these accounts just yet because DreamHost does not look at their own nameservers and the NS records have not been moved. Just trust that the email accounts will work. (They really do so it is not so much of a leap of faith as it would seem to be.)

  3. If you want to do only the email and leave the web pages on some other site then configure the web server to use an external web site. It is one of the options when the web system is configured.

  4. When you have all of the system up and running and everything looks good then go to the original system’s registrar and change the NS records to point to DreamHosts’ namervers,, and

  5. Wait four to eight hours (overnight, Get some rest. You’ve deserved it.) for the nameserver caches to propagate through the internet.

  6. Try to send email to the system. It should arrive at DreamHost’s accounts. At that point, everyone’s email will start to fill up their DreamHost account spaces. No email will be coming to the original location. You have “thrown the switch” and the entire domain for email has been moved.

Then comes the final sequence of moving the domain registration… :slight_smile:

  1. After all of that is complete, make sure that the domain registration’s email address (in the whois database) is proper and available and NOT located on systems such as AOL or COMCAST. The best solution is to put the registration on an email address within your domain. Only after it is all correct do the next step.

  2. Have the original domain unlocked and get the EPP code for the domain transfer.

  3. Request that DreamHost transfer the domain from the current provider to DreamHost. You will need the EPP code from the original provider for the transfer. This will then take about 7 business days to complete.

  4. You’re complete…