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Site Preview options: Accessing site before DNS points to hosting

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  • I'm a web designer and I use 3Essentials to host many sites for my customers, and I need a way for me and my customer to view the site I've developed for them on 3Essentials hosting BEFORE we cut over DNS to point to the site at 3Essentials.


  • The answer will vary slightly depending on some factors:
  • If you're hosted on our cPanel hosting solutions, simply use
    • where...
    • is the webserver your hosted on (i.e.,,, etc)
    • cpanelusername is your cpanel account username.
    • Reseller tip: if you want to hide the "" from your customer , simply use http://IP-of-server/~cpaneluser
  • If you're hosted on our Plesk hosting solutions:
    • If the site is not a portal based content management system (CMS) like DotNetNuke (DNN), then each site is accessible with our sitepreiew URL, which is$sitepreview/
    • where...
    • is the webserver your hosted on (i.e.,,, etc)
    • is your actual domain name.
    • If the site IS a portal based CMS like DNN, see the Site Preview Options For DNN section below.

Site Preview Options For DNN

A portal based solution won't work well with the SitePreview feature ($sitepreview/ because portal based solutions actually map the URL with content within the portal... and there's no portal definition for "$sitepreview/".  Even adding "$sitepreview/" as a portal alias can cause problems because of the way the $sitepreview function is designed.  As such, there are two alternate approaches:

OptionA: HOSTS file entry.


  • Create a HOSTS file entry on your PC resolving the site to it's IP address on the 3Essentials server.  Contact Support if you don't know the IP address of the server.  The HOSTS file entry would look like this:
  • X.X.X.X
  • This will make your PC resolve to the IP address of the 3Essentials server, instead of where DNS is actively resolving the domain to.
  • more details on using the HOSTS file method including where the HOSTS file is and how to edit it are found in the following KB article:



With the Parallels Plesk 11 control panel, there is a new site preview feature that operates differently from previous versions of Plesk. It allows you to view your site at a URL like:

Where 111-222-333-444 actually represents the IP address of your site on the server and represents the server on which the site is hosted. For example, if your site is hosted on our shared hosting server, web34 and your site is called "" your site preview URL would look like this:

You can actually add your site preview URL to the portal alias for the portal you are developing and DNN will direct the request for the URL to the portal. To do this:

  • Login to DNN with your host login credentials
  • Go to Host -> Settings -> Site Management
  • Here you will see a list of portals configured in your DNN application. Edit the portal you are developing and se the Add Portal Alias option to add your portal alias.

NOTE: Since DNS may not be directing you to the new site, you may have to use the HOSTS file initially in order to access it and add the portal alias. See OptionA above on using a HOSTS files. But if you did the initial DNN installation then it is likely you are already using a HOSTS file to reach the new site.


OptionC: Aliasing with alternate domain (with no HOSTS file or DNS changes to the customer domain needed)


  • If you have a domain name that's yours (and not your customer's), youu can create a hostname on that used specifically for accessing this site, and set that as an alias/portal alias on this site/dnn installation.  This is the most common method web-developers use with our hosting services for just this item. The following example illustrates this for clarity.

Assume you are ABC Website Design company, and you own  ABCwebsitedesign doesn't have to be hosted with us, you just have to be able to create DNS records on that domain, one that you control that's not your customer's. 

Also assume you're developing a site for your customer,

  1. If your site and the site are both on the SAME 3Essentials server, then this step is not necessary.  Otherwise, create a unique hostname on that domain to use for this purpose, so for example create DNS A record on like this:
    • (record type A) X.X.X.X
    • where X.X.X.X is the IP address of the site on the 3Essentials hosting server.
  2. Now you take your domain, as hosted with us:
      • portal0:
  3. And add that unique hostname,, as both a domain alias and a DNN portal alias, resulting in:
    • (domain aliased as
      • portal0: aliased as
  4. Now the site as it sits on our servers our servers is reachable via http://mycustomer.ABCwebsitedesign.comand your customer can reach it without any HOSTS file or DNS changes.
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