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Site Preview options: Accessing site before DNS points to hosting

Article ID: 1314

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Question:
  • 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.

Answer:
  • The answer will vary slightly depending on some factors:
  • If you're hosted on our cPanel hosting solutions, simply use http://webX.3essentials.com/~cpaneluser
    • where...
    • webX.3essentials.com is the webserver your hosted on (i.e., web9.3essentials.com, web11.3essentials.com, etc)
    • cpanelusername is your cpanel account username.
    • Reseller tip: if you want to hide the "3essentials.com" 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 http://webX.3essentials.com/$sitepreview/domain.com
    • where...
    • webX.3essentials.com is the webserver your hosted on (i.e., web26.3essentials.com, web22.3essentials.com, etc)
    • domain.com 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 (http://webX.3essentials.com/$sitepreview/domain.com) because portal based solutions actually map the URL with content within the portal... and there's no portal definition for "http://webX.3essentials.com/$sitepreview/domain.com".  Even adding "http://webX.3essentials.com/$sitepreview/domain.com" 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 yourdomain.com www.yourdomain.com
  • This will make your PC resolve www.yourdomain.com 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:
  • http://knowledge.3essentials.com/web-hosting/article/213/What-is-a-HOSTS-file-and-how-do-you-edit-it.html

OptionB: 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.com.  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, mycustomer.com.

  1. If your ABCwebsitedesign.com site and the mycustomer.com 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 ABCwebsitedesign.com like this:
    • mycustomer.ABCwebsitedesign.com (record type A) X.X.X.X
    • where X.X.X.X is the IP address of the mycustomer.com site on the 3Essentials hosting server.
  2. Now you take your mycustomer.com domain, as hosted with us:
    • mycustomer.com
      • portal0: mycustomer.com
  3. And add that unique hostname, mycustomer.ABCwebsite.com, as both a domain alias and a DNN portal alias, resulting in:
    • mycustomer.com (domain aliased as mycustomer.ABCwebsitedesign.com)
      • portal0: mycustomer.com(portal aliased as mycustomer.ABCwebsitedesign.com)
  4. Now the site mycustomer.com 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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