How to use your own domain names

If you buy a domain from a domain registrar, HCS will host the domain for you so that you can use your domain as the address for any of the pages on your website. We can even set up multiple domains (each of which is called a "virtual host") on your account.

There are some things that you need to bear in mind before you start:

  • HCS does not sell domains, and does not recommend any particular domain registrar. You still are responsible for buying a domain and paying for it yearly.
  • HCS does not host a nameserver. You will need to continue to use your domain registrar's nameserver, or another nameserver if you so choose. (A nameserver is a server that, when given a host name, returns the correct IP address for a host on the Internet.)

Here is a basic outline of what you need to do:

  1. Buy a domain from a domain registrar.
  2. Change the following settings in your nameserver (assuming that your domain is EXAMPLE.COM; most domain registrars provide an account control panel where you can change these settings):
    • EXAMPLE.COM should be a CNAME (Canonical Name) for www.hcs.harvard.edu.
    • If you want, WWW.EXAMPLE.COM should also be a CNAME for www.hcs.harvard.edu.
    • Important Note: If you also use e-mail on your domain (in the form yourname@example.com), you cannot set EXAMPLE.COM to be a CNAME for www.hcs.harvard.edu and still have it work. Your domain registrar's nameserver may also not allow a CNAME specifically for your top-level domain (which in this case would be EXAMPLE.COM) by default. You can get around these problems by using CloudFlare, which will allow you to set a CNAME record in both cases above. Set up an account on CloudFlare, follow the instructions for migrating your nameserver to CloudFlare, and then follow the steps above to set up your domain in preparation for the virtual host.
  3. Finally, head over to the "Virtual Hosts" tab on Helios and enter in the details for your new virtual host.
    • Server Name refers to your primary domain name (e.g. EXAMPLE.com).
    • Server Aliases refers to any secondary domains or subdomains that you also want to use (e.g. WWW.EXAMPLE.com, FOO.com).
    • Document Root refers to the location of your website in your home directory (e.g. /home/people/jharvard/web/example.com).
    • Note that our virtual host tool is flexible as to which subdomains you host with us. So if you want, you can just host "elephant.example.com" with us--there's no requirement that your top-level domain or your WWW domain be hosted with us.