Domain names consist of a series of alphanumeric "words"
separated by periods or "dots". Familiar names such as www.columbia.edu
and www.amazon.com are examples of domain names.
Domain names have various levels. columbia.edu is a second-level
name, while engineeering.columbia.edu is a third-level name.
Domain names may refer to a single computer host or other
network device or to a range of network addresses—a subdomain.
Domain names are defined through the Internet Domain Name
System (DNS), the international system for naming networked
A domain name is resolved to an Internet Protocol (IP)
address such as 126.96.36.199, much like a personal name
is "resolved" to a phone number in a phone directory. The
IP address is, in turn, used to route information to and
from a particular computer, for example a web server.
Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) is solely responsible
for administering Columbia University's Internet Protocol
(IP) resources and Domain Name System (DNS). Responsibility
for some columbia.edu domains and IP address ranges has
been delegated to other University units. See Subnet
and Domain Delegation. Domain names entered into Columbia's
DNS service are recognized anywhere on the Internet.
A department, school or other unit of the University may
request a third- or lower-level Columbia domain name to
identify its central web pages, a local server, or a deparmental
network. A unit may also request an external, second-level
name for an online service operated either inside or outside
the University. Various service options are described below
in Options for Running
CUIT will add a domain name to its DNS service where the
name requested meets the criteria listed below.
To obtain a domain name follow these steps:
- Review technical considerations with the unit's local
IT support group.
- Read the policies below for the level of domain name
desired and choose an appropriate name.
- Obtain the necessary approvals within the requesting
unit. Note: All domain requests related to the Columbia
University Medical Center must be approved by CUBHIS before
being passed to Hostmaster for final approval. Please
call 5 Help (212) 305-4357, or visit www.cubhis.org.
- Send the domain name request to email@example.com,
with copies of any required approvals attached.
- If the approved name is an external name as defined
below, register it with an Internet registrar as instructed
All domain name requests are reviewed by CUIT management.
CUIT may require that any requested name be approved by
the General Counsel if there are potential legal and image
issues related to use of the Columbia name outside www.columbia.edu.
Many of these issues are addressed in the Columbia University
Policy. The University has also established policies
on use of the Columbia name, crest and seal, conflict of
interest and conflict of commitment. Choice of a domain
name must not conflict with these policies.
Each word in a domain name represents a "level" in the naming
hierarchy. columbia.edu is a second-level domain name. All
Columbia third-level names end in "columbia.edu"
and are preceded by a single word, for example, engineering.columbia.edu.
Third-level Columbia names will only be created for major
business units of the University, e.g., schools, departments,
independent centers. Offices, centers and groups within
schools or departments should have fourth-level names. See
Lower-level Domain Names, below.
Third-level names must be approved by the Dean, Vice President
or equivalent senior manager responsible for the requesting
All names are subject to review for their content. For
third-level names the following restrictions are in force.
To avoid naming conflicts and ambiquities, short abbreviations
and acronyms are not allowed except where the abbreviation
is a well-known abbreviation for the unit, is unique, and
is officially recognized.
The name of a proposed lower-level domain of columbia.edu
should unambiguously represent an academic or administrative
unit. Multiple third-level names for the same unit and names
for short-lived groups or projects are discouraged. Third-level
names cannot be generic, that is, applicable to many units
or functions. For example, center.columbia.edu is not allowed.
Lower-level names within Columbia have one or more words
before a third-level name, for example, gateway.seas.columbia.edu
is a fourth-level name.
Lower-level names are available to members of the unit owning the next higher-level domain name. Individual faculty members and student groups may request a fourth- or lower-level name through the owning unit.
All requests must be approved by the senior manager responsible
for the unit owning the third-level domain name.
The third-level domain owner is responsible for resolving
duplicate or conflicting requests. Choice of names is subject
to review by CUIT.
External domain names are are those that do not end in
columbia.edu, for example, pubscape.org.
Only major business units of the University, e.g., schools,
independent centers. or equivalent organizational units
of the University may request an external domain name. External
domain names will not be created for individuals or student
All requests must be approved by the Dean, Vice President
or equivalent senior manager responsible for the unit.
All requests for an external domain name, i.e., any not
ending in columbia.edu, must be approved by the General
The unit requesting an external domain name is responsible
for any costs associated with establishing and maintaining
the name, including initial and renewal fees for registration.
The unit is also responsible for the costs of any other
external services related to operating the named service.
In general, domain name service for a new domain will be
run by CUIT, but the option for delegation of name service
to another Columbia unit will be entertained in the few
cases where there is a sound technical reason to do so,
e.g. for a unit that already runs its own DNS.
CUIT will not charge for its domain name services, with
the exception that the prevailing hourly consulting rate
will be billed for work performed to rectify incorrectly
registered domains caused by failure to consult the hostmaster
prior to registering the domain.
A network domain name must point to an active service such
as a network with connected devices, a web server, or an
e-mail server. Several technical solutions for web service
and e-mail for domains of any level are available. These
are outlined below, first for web hosting, and then for
Third-level Hosting Options
The services pointed to by a third-level domain, e.g.,
department.columbia.edu may be operated on or off-campus.
Various options are described here.
This is the approach used by many parts of the University.
Web space for recognized schools, departments and student
groups is routinely provided on the central web servers.
Currently, all University departments receive space under
"/cu" with a URL like www.columbia.edu/cu/sipa/
Third-level Columbia Central Server
Those groups that prefer a customized entry into the main
University web tree can establish a virtual domain within
columbia.edu. For example, the SIPA URL becomes www.sipa.columbia.edu.
This is implemented by using a virtual host on the central
web servers. A virtual host consists of host/domain name
registration of www.sipa.columbia.edu as an alias to www.columbia.edu
which "redirects" SIPA requests to www.columbia.edu/cu/sipa/.
Third-level Columbia Organization-operated
Some units run their own independent web servers and use
names like www.cs.columbia.edu, which look just like the
central server option above, but are in fact run on servers
administered by that unit.
Second-level (External) Domain Hosting
There are several ways of providing the service pointed
to by a second-level or external domain, i.e., a domain
that does not end in columbia.edu.
Second-level (External) CUIT-operated
A second level domain, such as earthscape.org, when operated
by CUIT, requires that the name be registered with a domain
registrar such as Network Solutions. The requesting unit
is strongly advised review the criteria above and to consult
before proceeding. The requesting unit will be responsible
for all registration costs, including renewal fees.
Second-level (External) Columbia
This is the same as the previous instance, but the service
runs on a unit's own web server instead of the central CUIT
Second-level Outsourced DNS
CUIT does not support a domain name service that is outsourced
and points directly to a CUIT web server.
Second-level Outsourced DNS and
Web Hosting with Referral
With outsourced DNS and web hosting, an ISP is paid to
run DNS and the web server for the Columbia organization.
That organization's content can still be on the CU web server,
by using a web server referral. When one browses, for example,
outsource.org, that ISP's web server refers the browser
to www.columbia.edu/cu/outsource. All such names should
be approved by the General Counsel.
Second-level Fully Outsourced DNS
and Web Hosting
With fully outsourced DNS and web hosting and an external
domain name, CUIT no longer has any relationship with the
domain or its content. This is the preferred method where
a school or department decides that an outside ISP is necessary
for providing a service. The unit using this approach must
consider the naming and intellectual property policy issues
discussed above and seek approval from the General Counsel.
Occasionally, units at Columbia are allowed to administer
their own DNS servers and are delegated a subnet or specific
range of IP addresses and/or a domain. Delegation must be
approved by the Deputy Vice President, Academic Information
Systems. Groups receiving domain or subnet delegations must
maintain them in a manner consistent with University and
CUIT practices, including this policy. This responsibility
includes compliance with published Internet RFCs and BCP,
such as maintaining forward and reverse DNS records and
implementing appropriate contact information for domains.
RFCs Relating to Delegation
Columbia University Information Technology firstname.lastname@example.org - 17 May
2004 - 212 854.1919
- RFC 1034
Domain names - concepts and facilities
- RFC 1035
Domain names - implementation and specification
- RFC 1591
Domain Name System Structure and Delegation
- RFC 2142
Mailbox Names for Common Services, Roles and Functions