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Choose Your Own DNS Service

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Chances are you aren't aware that you can take steps to change how you connect to the Internet—without changing your Internet Service Provider. It has to do with deciding to switch the "DNS" service that you use to help you connect to the Internet. But why would anyone want to do this?

Along the way, according to some, you might be able to boost performance and reliability and even add a measure of security. Few people know that they can do such a thing. And yet, if their Internet service were slow, they'd be on the phone looking for ways to change that or threatening to drop service, not knowing that switching DNS services might help.

Wait. What is DNS?

DNS stands for "Domain Name System." And all it means is that somewhere on the Internet is a computer (server) which ensures that when you type in a website name and click on it, a special server will match your electronic request to a website...specifically, its (domain) name.

That's called "domain name resolution."

And that's why when you type in "Amazon.com," you wind up at Amazon.com's website. Thank you, DNS System. It's a service that happens behind the scenes and is automatically set by your Internet Service Provider to a default DNS service.

But in some instances it's the DNS service itself that can cause a slow Internet connection. But few people realize they can use a different service, all the time, to access websites. And it's relatively hassle-free, easy to do and, in many cases, doesn't cost anything extra.

What is DNS service anyway?

The Internet is so responsive and so easy to use that it's easy to think there must be some Internet genies who simply make everything work so seamlessly.

But you need to realize, and understand, that the Internet is simply a series of zeroes and ones (0,1) that get packaged into instructions...requests for data, such as "I want to go to this website" or "Send an email to this person."

A website's name (its Web address) is actually a number: its IP address. The job of the DNS server is to "resolve" public Web addresses or domains to their underlying TCP/IP addresses.

In ordinary language, the DNS server matches the website that you want to go to—and which is sent from your computer's networking software as a number (an IP address)—to a name: the name of the website, whether that's Amazon.com, Apple.com or WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.

And even though it all happens reliably and incredibly fast, there are a couple of factors that could affect the process:

  1. The "round trip" time, in milliseconds, from your computer to the DNS server itself
  2. The fact that time depends on how close that server is to your computer, and other technological factors

Your Internet Service Provider has taken care of choosing a DNS service to work with. But as it turns out, you can choose a different one.

Your surfing. Your choice.

Choosing your own DNS service costs nothing and might even give you some advantages you don't know about. It's nice to know you have options when choosing a DNS service.

Not only that, but by choosing your own DNS resolution service, after looking at your options, you might be able to boost performance, improve security or even control the type of Internet content that flows into your home.

This article, which is an introductory article on the topic of changing DNS servers, doesn't go into great technical detail on how to make the switch. As you might expect—and will be disappointed to learn—it's not necessarily as simple as it seems...or should be. Other articles here are designed to help you do that.

Here are a few alternative DNS services you might want to research:

Google

Their option has been referred to as "the standard-setter for public DNS."
IPv4 addresses: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4
IPv6 addresses: 2001:4860:4860::8888 and 2001:4860:4860::8844

OpenDNS

OpenDNS, offering free and paid versions, is a popular option for households that want to block Internet content (pornography and other objectionable content) automatically through settings.
IPv4 addresses: 208.67.220.123 and 208.67.222.123

Norton ConnectSafe

Can also filter content such as pornography, file sharing and mature content. There is also a version called Norton ConnectSafe for Business.
IPv4 addresses: 199.85.126.10 and 199.85.127.10 — Security (malware, phishing sites and scam sites)
IPv4 addresses: 199.85.126.20 and 199.85.127.20 — Security + Pornography
IPv4 addresses: 199.85.126.30 and 199.85.127.30 — Security + Pornography + Other

Comodo Secure DNS

Fairly straightforward in that you simply switch to the service's primary and backup servers, without having to configure anything.
IPv4 addresses: 8.26.56.26 and 8.20.247.20

DNS.Watch

DNS.Watch makes it a point to let you know that they don't pay any attention to your DNS queries (that is, the websites you visit). Some services, such as Google DNS, make note of your visits for advertising purposes. (Makes you wonder why they chose the name "DNS.Watch.")
IPv4 addresses: 84.200.69.80 and 84.200.70.40
IPv6 addresses: 2001:1608:10:25::1c04:b12f and 2001:1608:10:25::9249:d69b

You can learn more about DNS and related topics in our Learning Center.

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