Set up a web address for your site

Level: Site Owner; Site Admin

The page outlines the different web address options available on Oxford Mosaic, explains the technical details behind these and outlines the rules relating to each option.

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When a new website is created on the Oxford Mosaic platform it is provisioned with a platform address of:

<prefix>.web.ox.ac.uk

where <prefix> has the value that was supplied on the Site Request form.

This address is suitable to be used as a public web address for your site. (Using ‘www.’ as the first part of an address is an optional convention, which is often not used nowadays.) In this case, there is no need to register another address and you are good-to-go in putting your site live whenever you are ready to do so.

However, in some cases it is desirable to have a web address that is more tailored, e.g.

  • To associate a site as a part of an existing Oxford University domain, i.e. <prefix>.<existingdomain>.ox.ac.uk
  • To create a new Oxford University domain, i.e. www.<newdomain>.ox.ac.uk
  • Or, if the site is for a multi-institution project or partnership, to use an external domain outside *.ox.ac.uk, e.g. www.<newdomain>.org.uk

Domain registration and hosting is separate to web-hosting and is largely managed independently of the Mosaic platform. So in these cases, acquiring and using a custom domain for your site is a 3-step process:

  • Ensure that the address you wish to use complies with University Policy and local web governance arrangements
  • Request registration of the new domain and the configuring of it to point to the webserver
  • Add the domain to your Mosaic site

Approval: Please note that new domain names must be approved by the appropriate Head of Department or Head of House. Some requests may have to be referred to other bodies within the University, for example to Legal Services – see http://help.it.ox.ac.uk/network/dns/hosting/index.

Steps 1 and 2 apply to all websites published on University web systems or within its domain space and need to be addressed before you can add the name to your Oxford Mosaic site.

Alternatively, if you are replacing a website that already has its own domain name, this address can be switched to point to your Mosaic website when you are ready to go-live.

Please note that six-part web addresses, such as www.<prefix>.<domain>.ox.ac.uk, are not supported by the domain name system.

If you wish to have a custom domain on your site and also to restrict viewing of specific pages to members of the University of Oxford only, this requires us to update our platform SSL Certificate so that web users with Oxford SSO usernames can login to your site using this address through an encrypted channel that protects their username and password.

  •   As this is an update to a third-party service, a setup charge of £250 will be made. This charge will also be incurred any time that the custom domain name is changed. The Mosaic service makes no charge for the use of custom domains on sites which do not use access restriction, or for sites using access restriction with the platform address as their primary URL.

To register a new domain or transfer an existing externally registered domain, contact domains@it.ox.ac.uk. A table of charges applying is available. Ensure that your request has been appropriately approved before making the request and explain that the site you will use the domain on will be a Mosaic website.

If you are transferring-in a domain name from an external registrar, you should supply details of that registrar so that the Domains team can organise the transfer. 

To register a new part to an existing domain, contact the local web manager of the existing domain in the first instance. Management of unit sub-domains is often devolved to local IT managers who will be able to deal with your request, liaising with the central Domains team as needed on your behalf.

To comply with University policy, this has to be done centrally by the IT Services Networks team. If you are requesting a new domain or transferring an existing external domain you may make this request at the same time. Otherwise, requests to switch the pointing of an existing domain should be sent to hostmaster@ox.ac.uk.

The Networks team require requests to be made in the following specific form: 

"Could you add the following ASIS record via the DNS interface ASIS '<your>.<address>.ox.ac.uk. 1800 IN CNAME env-prod-01.web.ox.ac.uk.'"

Replace <your>.<address>.ox.ac.uk with whatever you have registered for your domain, e.g. www.site.ox.ac.uk or site.unit.ox.ac.uk. If you are using an external URL, give that: e.g. www.site.ac.uk.

Once this configuration is done, hits on your domain name will be routed to the Mosaic platform. You should therefore only request this when you are ready to go live with your site – you should allow time to complete the related go-live steps. DNS updates are made on the hour: with notice, you can ask the Networks team to queue this work for a specific hour, or they will action it as soon after receiving the request as possible. Updates are sometimes actioned the next day.

The third step needed to use a custom domain with your site, is to add it to your site in Mosaic. This tells Mosaic which site to resolve requests to once they arrive at the platform. This can be done at any time in relation to steps 1 and 2, but once they are completed, until this step is done, any user requesting your domain in their browser will see a Mosaic holding page. 

This needs to be done by a Site Owner or Site Administrator in the Site Settings > Domains tab:

screenshot of the Domains section within Site Settings.
Site settings - domains

The tab displays the current primary domain of the site: until your custom domain is added this will be the Platform address.

Once you add a custom domain to use on your site, you need to set your preferred domain as the Primary domain – this will be the one used in links back to the site, e.g. in the Search results list. Normally, you will want your custom domain to be the Primary domain. 

  •   Add the domain name into the Domain Name box in the form of www.example.ox.ac.uk. Do not include http:// or a trailing slash 
  •   Check the box against the Is primary domain? option 
  •   Save the settings 

After you hit Save Settings, it will take around 10-20 seconds for the page to respond whilst the domain is entered onto the platform and associated to your site. Once this is finished the domain setup is complete and your site will be serving publicly to your web users from the custom domain. 

Please note that, unless you have chosen the option to update the SSL certificate with your domain (at a charge of £250), you will continue to use the Platform address for editing the site. 

Help

 If you need assistance with requesting and co-ordinating the steps necessary to setup and add a custom domain for use with your Mosaic site, you may request help by selecting the ‘Request a custom domain’ button in the Site Settings > Domains tab of your site.

University policy on domain names is set out at http://help.it.ox.ac.uk/network/dns/policy, with guidance given at http://help.it.ox.ac.uk/network/dns/hosting/index. New domain names must be approved by the appropriate Head of Department or Head of House.

All Oxford Mosaic websites are hosted on the Acquia Cloud in a server farm within the EU. University policy requires that where a domain name used with a University system is pointing to a site which is hosted externally, the domain name must by registered and configured centrally by the registration team within IT Services. Even if you intend to use an external domain name with your site, it must be registered and hosted by the University’s domain registrar. If your domain name has already been registered elsewhere, it will need to be transferred to the University registrar.

Governance for the creation and maintenance of websites is devolved to local units around the University – see the information on how to Request a new website. You should consult your local web manager about any local policies that may apply to the creation and use of domain names.

It is often simpler and quicker to use a web address that creates a new part to an existing domain, i.e. using the <prefix>.<existingdomain>.ox.ac.uk form of URL. In this case you need to consult the owner of the existing domain to request registration of the new address using the prefix. This approach may be well-suited to research groups within a department or sub-department who may associate their project with their department’s domain.

If your site is for a Student Club or Society, a convention has been established for domain names. These sites will be given domain names of the form <prefix>.studentclubs.ox.ac.uk. Registration of new domains for Student Clubs and Societies is not available.

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