The Domain Name System, or DNS, is an essential part of the internet – and yet most people don’t even know it exists.
It is often referred to as the phone book of the internet, as its basic function is to translate user-friendly domain names into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This makes browsing the internet more straightforward as users don’t have to remember long, complicated IP addresses. But it also means that your device needs to perform a DNS query every time you want to visit a website, which can make browsing sluggish if your DNS servers aren’t up to scratch.
When you sign up to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a common misconception is that you have to use the servers assigned by your ISP. The fact is, you can use whichever ones you like – and changing your DNS server can benefit both the speed and stability of your connection.
There are lots of free public DNS services available and they all have different pros and cons, but there are a couple of things that can affect how each DNS performs. Finding the quickest DNS server isn’t always a matter of choosing the one most frequently cited for speed.
What can affect the speed of your DNS?
You may have come across Cloudflare while looking for a super-fast public DNS. Their website boasts the fastest speeds on the internet, and many would agree. The difficulty is that not everyone will enjoy the same speeds, because those living in closer proximity to a particular server will enjoy some of the fastest speeds around. Those living thousands of miles from one may not experience such a speedy service.
Security considerations complicate the issue as choosing the right DNS resolver is about more than just speed. Fortunately for you, we’ve put together a roundup of some of the internet’s most highly coveted DNS servers. Take a look, and see which ones tick the boxes for you.
OpenDNS has been around for over a decade and is one of the most well-known names in public DNS. It offers plenty of benefits, including high speeds, in-built protection against phishing sites, parental controls and free technical support.
If you’re nervous about setting up your own DNS server, OpenDNS also comes with setup instructions for a variety of devices, including Macs, smartphones and routers.
Google Public DNS
Google is a big name in the world of technology and has its own public DNS system that you can access for free.
The service records your IP address for up to 48 hours and some information, though it’s anonymised, is permanently logged. This poses a problem for some users, as many wish to change their DNS to avoid this sort of surveillance.
Google’s support site only offers a very limited amount of information as well, so it’s not for the inexperienced.
Cloudflare is a US company with a range of online services. The latest is the snappily-titled public DNS service 126.96.36.199.
Cloudflare operates a no-frills DNS service, with none of the added security measures you may find on other DNS networks. Instead, its focus is on performance and privacy.
Cloudflare boasts the fastest, independently verified public DNS service in the world and promises never to commit your IP address to disk. They also commission annual audits by third parties to confirm their commitments.
If you’re a newbie to DNS, cloudflare provides plenty of guidance on how to configure your device, with tutorials on setting up everything from Windows PCs and Macs to smartphones and routers. Should you encounter any issues, they also have a community forum where you can post questions and look for advice.
DNS.watch is a pretty small DNS service, but as it’s so small, its servers receive a relatively low volume of traffic and it’s unlikely to be blocked by government agencies.
DNS.watch also promises never to sell your data logs to shady advertisers, and their DNS resolvers are designed not to log any queries, meaning your privacy is protected.
Hopefully, now that you know what to look out for in your DNS resolver, as well as the pros and cons of some of the most popular services, you’ll feel more confident about making a decision when it comes to configuring your device. However, if you are still reluctant to use VPN, you might need a credible ISP that can rely on such as AT&T, click here to check out the review about their price and plan
Do be aware that if you’re browsing the internet via VPN, some internet service providers will leak your DNS details even when the VPN is active and should be protecting your personal data. If this is something you’re worried about, it’s all the more reason to manually configure your default DNS settings and pick a server that won’t override the VPN.
If you’re concerned that a DNS leak could be affecting your privacy, use a free tool like HMA!’s DNS leak checker to find out whether your connection is protected.