What is the difference between a primary domain, alternate domain, and a subdomain?

  • Applies to: Grid
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Time Needed: 10
    • Tools Required: AccountCenter access
  • Applies to: Legacy DV & VPS Hosting
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Time Needed: 10
    • Tools Required: AccountCenter access
  • Applies to: VPS Hosting
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Time Needed: 10
    • Tools Required: AccountCenter access

Primary domain

Your primary domain is simply the domain you used to purchase your server. The main controls for your server will be shown under this domain. However, the controls apply to the entire server, including additional domains that may be hosted on the server.

acOverview_primary_domain acOverview_primary_domain

On the Grid, the primary domain is also the basis for the main FTP/SSH username.

If you want to update your primary domain, please see: How do I change my primary domain?How do I change my primary domain?

The primary domain does not have to be pointed to the server for it to function as your username.

Alternate domain

An alternate domain is any domain that has been added to your server after the primary domain. By default, all alternate domains are completely independent domains. They can have their own content, email addresses, and settings.

acOverview_alternate_domain acOverview_alternate_domain

  • Server functions, such as adding a database or an email user, are handled under the primary domain. Just think of the primary domain as a shortcut to the server controls. If you first click on the alternate domain, you can also click on Manage this Server to get to the server controls. Both options go to the same place.
  • DNS settings, domain registration, and nameserver settings are still handled directly under the alternate domain.
  • To add an alternate domain to your server, please see: How do I add a domain or subdomain to my server?


A subdomain is a subset of an existing domain. For example, is a subdomain of

acOverview_subdomain acOverview_subdomain

Subdomains do not need to be added in the AccountCenter as alternate domains, unless the domain itself is not on the server. On the Grid, simply create a folder for it in the domains/ directory. On a DV server, you can either use the Plesk subdomain feature, or add it as its own domain.

Subdomains should not have their own zone files. If you do add a subdomain as an alternate domain in the AccountCenter, click on it to make sure it does not have a zone file. Click on Remove Zone File if it does, but do not remove the alternate domain entry (if you added it because the domain itself is not on the server). If you need unique DNS entries for a subdomain, add a new entry to the parent domain's zone file.

It is possible to have separate email addresses for subdomains, if you add an MX record to the parent zone file specifically for the subdomain.

See also

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