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Managed vs Free DNS providers

October 15, 2019

When it comes to DNS management, there are two different approaches you should consider. For many smaller organizations, DNS is a one-and-done task, so you would focus on reliability and fast resolution times. But for larger, more global organizations, DNS can be leveraged as an optimization tool. For the companies, reliability and speed are a given, so you need to shift your focus towards finding the right functionality, analytics, and technical support.

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Emil is a Marketing and SEO Expert at Constellix. If you found our site online, you can thank him for getting you there.

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After one of the biggest distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks happened to Dyn on October 21st, 2016 people started to notice the importance of managed DNS providers.

This attack impacted some of the world’s biggest organizations like Twitter, Roblox, Paypal, Amazon and many more. All of these outages impacted users and businesses on a global scale.

DNS is one of those things you just take for granted. If you think about it, millions of users are making DNS queries daily, yet they do not know the importance of it.

DNS is one of the foundations of the internet, it’s the glue that keeps everything together.

Before we start talking about managed and free DNS providers let’s go through the basics.

What is DNS?

In short, domain name servers or DNS translates domain names like www.google.com into IP addresses such as 10.10.12.132

Computers communicate with each other through a series of numbers (IPs) but for us humans that makes the process difficult.

Think about it what’s easier to remember Constellix.com or 192.168.10.16.

So they came up with a process that maps a domain name with its IP to make it easier for us.

This process consists of name servers that store DNS records which are the actual file that says “this domain” maps to “this IP address”.

This blog dives into greater detail and if you are a visual learner there is also a great video.

Important functions of DNS

One of the most important functions that DNS provides is what we like to call RSS which stands for redundancy, security, and speed.

These aspects are extremely important for online businesses and for websites in general.

Redundancy

Outages happen due to many factors, some of them are software errors, DDoS attacks, equipment failure, human error, etc.

This is why it is important not to put all your eggs in one basket. We strongly recommend having secondary DNS which has a different network infrastructure.

Secondary DNS is a management strategy for multiple providers that are authoritative for answering queries for a domain. If you were to query a domain with Secondary DNS enabled, you would have a 50/50 chance of having your query answered by either provider.

Since you have two sets of nameservers answering queries, if one set were to be unavailable then the remaining provider would answer all queries once the other provider is back online, both providers would return to sharing relatively equal amounts of query traffic.

Check out our Ultimate guide for secondary DNS that covers everything you need to know.

Having a Secondary DNS will ensure 100% uptime during a single DNS provider outage, which will save you that embarrassing “website not found” error.

Security

Even if you are not a technical person there is a big chance you have heard of the term distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

In short, a DDoS attack is intended to make a network resource unavailable to its intended users by disrupting the services of the host, which leads to users not being able to access your website.

Poorly secured DNS greatly increases your chance of getting hit by DDoS attacks.

Now, what’s the chance that your business might be hit with a DDoS attack?

It’s higher than you might think. According to a study from Corero, “nearly 70 percent of surveyed organizations experience 20-50 DDoS attacks per month.  

Even though your company is not being the direct target of the DDoS attack. The services your organizations share in common may be used by another company that is the target of the attack.

One of the worst things that can happen from a DDoS attack despite losing thousands of dollars is losing your customer’s confidence in your services. Over 75 percent of businesses surveyed by Corero stated that losing their customer’s confidence was their biggest fear.

There are multiple ways to combat these attacks, one of which is having multiple DNS providers.

Security levels between providers vary, hence it should be an essential factor to take into consideration when looking for your DNS provider.

Many DNS providers often share the same network or buy network services from the same company. A substantial amount of DNS providers do not actually run their own network themselves.

This is why research is important, make sure if you are purchasing multiple DNS services that they both are on different networks.  

Speed

You don’t have to be an adrenaline seeker in order to want more speed. Every business should always optimize for a faster connection.

This provides many benefits for you and your users. When looking for DNS hosting it is important to look at the locations of the providers POPS (point of presence). Now you might think the more pops a hosting company has the better right?

Well, not really the most important factor here is the location. Most DNS providers have multiple servers strategically scattered all across the world in order for them to be closer to the users querying your website.

This results in DNS queries having to travel a shorter distance which results in faster loading speed.

There are other interesting services that providers also offer like GeoDNS which allows companies to choose which options are best for their desired outcome using user’s geographical location.

When Google asked its users what users disliked the most when browsing the web on their mobile device 46% answered waiting for slow pages to load.


Another factor is that speed affects a website’s SEO, which can hurt a website’s ability to rank higher in google search results. Google has openly stated this in numerous articles.

You can use free tools such as Solvedns to see the provider’s speed. One thing to take into consideration is that it tends to slightly vary from month to month.

Now that we covered some fundamental aspects of DNS lets start talking about free vs managed DNS providers.

Free DNS providers

If you have a website that you don’t rely on for income nor its uptime is of great importance, then you should probably go with a free DNS provider. Most free providers have features that will satisfy the basic needs of your website.

Providers have to build and maintain a global infrastructure, make partnerships with data providers, hire developers to create the service, support clients, etc.

They need funds to maintain everything, but also the R&D to make sure everything is top tier quality. Which is why free providers tend to lack some of those responsibilities.

This is why if the website is not that important to you should use free services.

Another thing to take into consideration is that with free services, you are not given the ability to work with experts in DNS and traffic management.

In a lot of situations, free DNS providers use the platform to upsell you on other services and products.  

Managed Providers

For all the companies that rely on their website for income, user experience, reputation, SEO rankings, etc should use a managed provider.

We can’t state what every premium DNS provider offers but we can tell you what we offer our users at Constellix.

  • Secondary DNS – for redundancy and to make sure there is no downtime
  • Full-featured API
  • Outstanding real-time monitoring using our Sonar monitoring services
  • DNS Analytics – troubleshoot network issues, predict DNS-based attacks
  • Real-Time Logging – the ability to view your queries live in real-time
  • Security – Which ranges from early attack detection to IP blocking
  • GeoDNS services – create unique routing logic based on the user’s region, location, IP address or network
  • Failover – Which Automatically reroutes traffic to available resources, so your website never goes down again.
  • Real User Monitoring- capture truly real user metrics from actual users browsers.
  • Traffic Steering- which intelligently steers the user to the fastest resource in your network
  • Technical support that will answer any of your questions 24/7
  • An easily operated interface
  • Faster overall performance of your website

These are some of the features we offer, but enough about us, let’s talk about what to look for when choosing a provider

What  to look for in a provider

When it comes to DNS management, there are two different approaches you should consider. For many smaller organizations, DNS is a one-and-done task, so you would focus on reliability and fast resolution times.

But for larger, more global organizations, DNS can be leveraged as an optimization tool. For the companies, reliability and speed are a given, so you need to shift your focus towards finding the right functionality, analytics, and technical support.

It’s important to know which strategy is right for you before you begin your research, so you have a general idea of what to look for.  Here are just a few things we recommend you look for in a provider:

Ease of use

-Intuitive control panel with 24/7 support included.

-A robust API so you can automatically create the appropriate DNS records every time you provision a new server.

-Extensive documentation and tutorials.

Affordability

-Bulk pricing, like yearly plans or reduced rates for purchasing more of an item.

-Wide variety of additional services can be added for a monthly or yearly fee.

A very important aspect that every user should take into account is whether the provider has the ability to grow and shrink with your organization without penalty.

Long term contracts and paying for unused resources is not the best solution that your organization can make with any service provider.  

Important metrics to take into consideration

  • Average resolution time (by region and globally)
  • Uptime history
  • Points of presence
  • Upstream providers
  • Security measures

When doing your research for different provider’s metrics and features, always take into account if that provider is offering you features that will allow your organization to grow. Even if you won’t be using them right away, you will want to be able to see the possibility or growth.

If your DNS provider does not even have the necessary features you would need to grow into, why would you choose them now?

Chose a provider that will not charge you for these advanced services until you actually need them.

Overall picture

Do your research to make sure your future DNS provider has all the needed features that will allow your organization to grow and be up and running even in the worst of times.

When you chose any service provider, your organization should see an immediate ROI on the services they subscribe to. If you do not feel like you are seeing the benefits, it’s not the correct decision for you.

If you are interested in a managed DNS provider feel free to schedule a DEMO with us, don’t worry it’s free and we will answer any additional questions you might have.


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