Last year around this time we had an exciting announcement. We announced support for IPv6 for all of our WordPress hosting customers. Today, I’d like to revisit this topic and further explain the benefits and how to enable it.
IPv6 is available by default on every Shifter site. To enable it, you’ll need two things. First, the CloudFront domain name found on your Shifter Dashboard and access to update your DNS.
Finding your CloudFront Domain
When creating a site on Shifter you’re assigned a default Shifter domain name. It goes something like example-site.on.getshifter.io. This is the default way to access your site but it’s not the only way.
Your Shifter domain is actually a mask for another domain. This masked domain is referred to as your CloudFront domain or the raw CDN domain.
To locate your CloudFront domain name log into the Shifter Dashboard and navigate to the site settings. In the site settings panel, you’ll see a domain name labeled CDN and it ends with cloudfront.net. That’s your CloudFront domain name.
Since we are a product built on AWS, we’ve integrated with Amazon’s CloudFront as our CDN. Each customer has their own CloudFront distribution which comes with IPv6 enabled by default. To enable IPv6 for a custom domain name, you’ll need to locate and make note of the CloudFront domain name.
Now that you have your CloudFront domain name handy, let’s discuss DNS changes.
Updating your DNS for IPv6
Let’s assume you already have a site hosted with Shifter using a custom domain name. If not, we have docs on this topic for setting up a custom domain. Once you’re set up with a custom domain name please refer back to this guide and for setting up IPv6.
For example, your custom domain name might be www.example.com. In this case the record you need to change it the subdomain record for www.
The typical domain setup on Shifter allows you to use the Shifter domain name as the value for your custom domain. In other words, the domain www.example.com is really just a mask for example.on.getshifter.io. This works but you won’t get the full benefits of IPv6. For that, you’ll need to use the CloudFront domain name instead.
Log into your DNS provider and find the CNAME records for your site.
Once you locate the record you want to update, replace the Shifter domain with the CloudFront domain name. Once you save your DNS changes will begin to propagate.
If your site is currently live with a custom domain name you should not experience any downtime or pause in service. The change should be seamless. You can apply this to any custom domain name as long as your DNS provider supports CNAME or ALIAS / APEX domain records. Which most do.
To test this change you can use a few different tools. If you have a command line tool like Terminal you can check for the IPv6 record like this.
$ dig AAAA www.example.com
If you are all set up correctly, the response should be an array of IPv6 IP addresses.
Another way to test this is by using a testing site like ipvc-test.com https://ipv6-test.com/validate.php
Why is IPv6 Important?
The biggest reason is speed. Today, more networks are deployed as IPv6-only networks. To extend the capability to legacy IPv4 networks gateways are necessary but that additional step requires processing and adds latency. With this as a growing standard, the time it takes to connect to IPv4 domains will only grow.
Compared to IPv4, IPv6 domains don’t require the same legacy gateways making the transfer of data more direct and faster. The change between IPv6 and IPv4 can be quite dramatic especially at scale. Which is no surprise why major players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Comcast, and more all advocate for it. Faster connections equal happier network, customers, and productivity which often translates to profit.
For more info on the topic, here’s our recommended reading.