Managing DNS isn't always a set-it-and-forget-it operation. If you run a hosting company -- even a small one -- your DNS (domain name system) zone files will need constant updating as people add and remove domain names from your service.
The interface for Microsoft's DNS servers isn't the greatest. It's not very user-friendly, and bulk changes are nearly impossible. But through the use of scripting as well as custom applications, you can automate DNS tasks (adding, removing or updating zones) without breaking a sweat or putting your fist through your screen in frustration.
A good source for commercial DNS tools is Men & Mice. This company specializes in DNS utility software like DNS Management module, which works interchangeably with conventional Unix BIND and Microsoft DNS servers.
The DNS Management module tool helps automate simple, repetitive tasks such as adding hosts, mail routes or new domains through wizard-driven interfaces. Every change is given a corresponding audit trail that makes it easy to track changes.
The tool also allows administrators to enforce detailed access controls. In other words, a user in a given IP block can only make certain changes in certain DNS zones. Mass-editing functions let you make global updates across all zones in the same manner as a search-and-replace action.
Men & Mice also makes DNS Expert, an OS-independent utility that automates the diagnosis and resolution of common problems with DNS servers. These include security issues, zone health checks and other snafus arising from human error (such as a zone file inherited from a previous administrator).
Some DNS management tools are free. One straightforward freeware tool is dnswalk, which attempts to initiate zone transfers for a given zone and inspects all the returned records for inconsistencies with other data. Since the tool is written in Perl, it requires the Perl engine to run. But it uses standard I/O libraries to accomplish all its functions, so it can run on just about any platform.
You can also use Ganymede, a generic network-directory management tool written in open-source Java. It may be too ambitious for casual use, but like the Men & Mice packages it supports delegation and can be used to track and log all changes made to a given directory. DNS is just one of many directory types that can be managed through Ganymede, so although it may not be an out-of-the-box management solution, it's a daring way to kill many birds with one stone.
Five back-end tasks Windows administrators should automate
Automating Active Directory maintenance
Automating Group Policy Object management tasks
Automating DNS management tasks
Automating full-system backups
Automating Web server log archiving
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.