Hosting Domains with Dynamic DNS

The folks over at Google do a great job of allowing folks to create simple web sites and I have helped our local homeowner’s association deploy a web site there.  However, for some things such as web services, it is better to host on a server I control and for those I have a small web server running at home.

I also like to be able to use Remote Desktop Protocol to “remote in” to my home network from work and need the IP address to do so.  Unfortunately, our Internet Provider can and will change the IP address periodically since it is assigned via DHCP and this prevents me from hosting web services or remoting in.

Enter Dynamic DNS or DDNS.  With a DDNS service, you can quickly change the IP address associated with your domain name(s) when your IP address changes at home.

For several years, I had GoDaddy host my domains and used ZoneEdit for the DDNS.  This worked great but due to a number of issues recently with GoDaddy, I moved my domains over to NameCheap and I’ve been very impressed with them so far.  The cool thing is that NameCheap also provides for DDNS and so I now have everything managed in one location.

At the end of this post, I’ll provide links to the DDNS code I wrote for both ZoneEdit and NameCheap; but, let me first describe the functionality I wanted.

  • I wanted a light-weight service that runs in the background automatically.  To accomplish this, the code runs as a background Windows Service that automatically starts when Windows restarts.  The benefit to me is that when Windows Update automatically cycles my server and it is assigned a new IP address by my ISP on startup, the service will automatically update my DNS settings at NameCheap.
  • I didn’t want to hammer the DDNS server when the IP address didn’t change.  To meet this, I store the current IP address and only send the update requests when it changes.
  • I needed to exclude the private addresses assigned on my network.  To meet this goal, in the ZoneEdit code, I have the exclusion list in the config file.  For the newer code for NameCheap, I hard code the exclusions to all the non-routable private networks and also provide for the ability to exclude certain addresses.
  • I needed to be able to add or remove domains or sub-domains without recompiling the application.  Both apps use configuration files to add or remove target domains.
  • And I needed logging to see if I had problems.  Both tools write to the Windows event log.

The ZoneEdit Code with a compiled version is here.

The NameCheap Code with compiled version is here.

I recommend that you examine and compile the code yourself; but, if you want you can use the pre-compiled version you must agree to do so at your own risk!  If you do, you need to install the service by using the “InstallUtil” utility that ships with Microsoft .NET and I’ve included for convenience.

Hosting small web sites or services at home can work with DDNS and I’ve provided a couple of tools to help you do this; but, if you have more than a few visitors, I strongly recommend that you go with a professional hosting organization and not try to run this at home.

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