Should I Use an Alternate DNS Server?
Let’s start by de-geekifying the DNS acronym. DNS stands for “Domain Name Service” and it’s a service normally provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Here’s why it’s necessary… Humans refer to websites by their common “dot com” names, but the computers that run things on the Internet know them only by numbers known as IP (internet protocol) addresses. When you tell your browser you want to visit a certain website, it must connect to a DNS server to translate that website name into an IP address.
Normally, that DNS server is operated by your ISP, but there’s no technical reason why that must be so. Alternate DNS services can be used to speed up web surfing, provide an additional layer of security, correct typos, or assign shortcuts to commonly-typed website names. Here are some free alternative DNS services you can try.
I’ve written previously about OpenDNS, the free Domain Name Service that looks up IP addresses and connects you to them faster than the DNS provided by many ISPs. There are other free alternative DNS providers for Web surfing and email, plus managed DNS services for Web site, corporate intranets, and others who need more than basic domain/IP address lookups.
Google Public DNS debuted in December, 2009. To use Google Public DNS, configure your TCP/IP Properties to use the nameservers located at IP addresses 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. (Step-by-step instructions are available at the Google Public DNS site.) Google Public DNS isn’t anything fancy; it just works.
NortonDNS is a free DNS service offered by Internet security software maker Symantec Corp., which owns the Norton Utilities brand. The NortonDNS nameservers are at 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199. At the NortonDNS Web site, you can download a utility for Windows or Mac computers that configures your nameservers to use NortonDNS automatically. If you wish to revert to your old DNS nameservers, just uninstall the NortonDNS utility. NortonDNS provides some Web surfing security by comparing all DNS lookup requests against Symantec’s huge database of known malware sites and blocking them. Of course, this comparison slows DNS lookup responses a bit.
DNS Advantage was founded in 2007. Its free, public nameserver IP addresses are 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. This free DNS service is provided by NeuStar, and uses the same DNS infrastructure as NeuStar’s fee-based enhanced DNS service, UltraDNS.
NOTE: After changing your DNS servers, you should also flush your system’s DNS and browser caches so that your new DNS settings will take immediate effect. This step is optional, but recommended.
There’s no harm in trying out one of these DNS services. Most likely, you’ll see a boost in the speed of your web page loading. If you decide to go crawling back to your ISP for DNS service, you can simply change the DNS numbers back to what they were.
Dynamic DNS Services
If you’re a home user and you’re only interested in speeding up your web browsing with an alternate DNS service, you can skip the next two paragraphs, which explain “Dynamic DNS” services for webmasters.
Suppose you want to run a Web server on a home computer which connects to the Internet through a typical consumer-oriented ISP. Generally, you can’t, because the IP address that the ISP assigns to your router changes every so often. If people browse to “mysite.com” a normal DNS lookup will fail because the IP address in the DNS database is no longer your site’s address. Your ISP may give you a static IP address that never changes for a fee, but many don’t offer static IP addresses at all. Dynamic DNS solves this problem.
The dynamic DNS offered by DynDNS.com shows how dynamic DNS works. You provide a hostname, such as “mysite”, and it’s tacked onto a domain name maintained by DynDNS.com, e. g., mysite.dyndns.info. That name is associated with a static IP address controlled by DynDNS. Next, you download and run a little utility that configures your router so that each time the router gets a new IP address from your ISP, the router communicates the new IP address to DynDNS. When someone types mysite.dyndns.info into their browser, the request goes to DynDNS’ static IP address. DynDNS looks up your router’s current IP address and routes the request to it. DynDNS is only $20/year, and you can check it out with a free trial.
Have you tried an alternative DNS service? Post your comment or question below…