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Heather Oliver is a Technical Writer for Constellix and DNS Made Easy, subsidiaries of Tiggee LLC. She’s fascinated by technology and loves adding a little spark to complex topics. Want to connect? Find her on LinkedIn.

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No matter what size your business is, or what industry you’re in, you need DNS. Plain and simple.  In this blog, you’ll learn all about managed DNS and why you need it. 

DNS Explained

Let’s start with a quick refresher on the Domain Name System (DNS) first. Pretty much every resource you find online compares DNS to a phonebook. But what does that mean? It’s simple, really. The main function of DNS is to convert domain names into a series of numbers called IP addresses. The domain name (Constellix.com) is just that, a name for a website. The IP address (192.0.0.0), on the other hand, is the location of your content. 

It’s just like a physical mailing address. To receive your mail, you need a street address. For example, a mailperson can’t deliver to “Jessica’s house.” First of all, there are a lot of Jessicas out there. And even if there was only one Jessica, it still doesn’t tell the mailperson where to deliver the mail. DNS works similarly. Constellix.com isn’t the address, it’s just a name that humans can easily identify. Since machines don’t speak the human language, they need a number. DNS ties all this together with a nice pretty bow. 

Types of DNS Servers

Now let’s take a look at how the DNS process works. The above conversions are done by a series of nameservers.

1. Recursive Nameserver:

The recursive nameserver or resolver is where the DNS lookup process begins. This server is responsible for answering your query (request) for a website or online resource. If a recursive nameserver already has the requested information in its cache, the process stops there. But most of the time, it needs to ask another server for the answer. 

2. Root Nameserver:

The root servers operate in (surprise!) the root zone. While ty don’t usually resolve queries directly, they are the resource that provides the requesting resolver with the information they need to track down the domain in question. The root server holds the location of all the TLD nameservers, which is the next stop on a query’s journey.

3. TLD Nameserver:

The top level domain (TLD) nameserver is where the recursive server learns which nameserver is authoritative for a given domain. TLD servers contain all domain names with common extensions (.com, .org, .net, .gov, etc.). 

4. Authoritative Nameserver:

The authoritative nameserver is the server that holds the most up-to-date information on a given domain—hence being the authority.” This nameserver is provided by your managed DNS host and is what gives the recursive server the final answer for where a domain is located. Once it receives the final answer, the recursive server can send the requesting user to where they want to go. In the rare case a final answer wasn’t given, the process repeats.

Each of these servers is crucial to the DNS process. And while there are several moving parts to a DNS lookup, it all happens within milliseconds. 

Tip: Visit our blog on authoritative and recursive DNS to learn more. 

Why Do You Need Managed DNS?

Without DNS, no one is going to find your domain on the internet. So one way or the other, you need DNS. There are many options available, both paid and premium. Many web hosting companies like GoDaddy or similar, for instance, include free DNS with their product. 

And who doesn’t like free?

Well, in the case of most businesses, free isn’t going to cut it. While a free DNS service can get the job done, it’s usually in the most basic of ways and you’d actually be doing yourself a disservice.  Managed DNS is a better option as it provides more advanced, customizable solutions. Premium DNS providers also tend to run on stronger infrastructure, have faster speeds, and are more reliable overall.

Let’s take a look at the difference:

Free vs Paid DNS 

Usage limitations are one of the most obvious factors to consider when it comes to free DNS. It’s commonplace for free accounts to have severe limitations for queries, as well as other common DNS features. These limitations can lead to overage fees, which can completely obliterate any benefit of using a “free” service. You’ll also likely have to deal with constant attempts at upselling.

Free DNS services aren’t typically as private or secure as those managed by premium providers. That’s to say there aren’t some free DNS services with excellent security and privacy policies, there absolutely are, but they are more geared toward individuals than they are businesses. It’s just something to make note of. 

The fact is, inferior infrastructure, security holes in software, and lack of expertise—especially true with companies that don’t specialize in DNS—can be an issue with both paid and free providers.  Another cause of concern is data selling. Many “free” services are maintained by selling data or emails. Of course, this is possible with paid providers as well. That’s why reading the fine print is vital before choosing your DNS partner.   

Free DNS benefits vs Paid DNS

Top DNS Service Features

There is no one-size-fits-all DNS solution. Every company has its own unique needs. But there are some features that every business can benefit from. Let’s take a look at the top 7:

1. DNS Failover

Failover is hands down the simplest and most cost-effective way to protect your domain from server outages and performance issues.

2. Primary/Primary DNS (Secondary DNS via API)

Even though we have the longest uptime history in the industry, we are still advocates for using two DNS providers. At Constellix, we support Primary/Primary DNS through API. This allows organizations the ability to enjoy the protection that comes with traditional secondary DNS, without sacrificing advanced features.   

3. Traffic Management/Optimization

An advanced traffic management solution like our Traffic Steering load balancer is a must in today’s digital world. To meet the growing demands of consumers, your DNS should have the ability to intelligently route traffic based on real-time internet conditions. 

4. Weighted Round Robin Load Balancing

Round Robin load balancing is a highly effective means of boosting the performance of your endpoints, as well as ensuring none of them become overloaded. Constellix’s advanced Weighted Round Robin feature lets you cycle traffic among your endpoints based on capacity, speed, location, or cost. It also complements our other DNS services.

5. Advanced GeoDNS

Domains with large traffic volumes or provide run mission-critical services are best suited with a provider that can offer high-level GeoDNS services such as IP filtering (optimize or block traffic by specific location, IP, or ASN), Geo Proximity, and Global Traffic Director.

6. DNS Analytics

DNS Analytics is one of the most under-utilized and underrated tools in DNS. That said, this option isn’t available at all at most providers, but once you are exposed to the power that comprehensive DNS data puts at your fingertips, you’ll never look at DNS the same again. 

7. Threat Detection

While there are a plethora of third-party threat detection services, utilizing a product like our Real-time Traffic Anomaly Detection (RTTAD) protects your domain by monitoring and learning your unique traffic patterns with AI and machine learning—all at the DNS level. This helps you identify suspicious activity and prevent real damage from occurring to your domain.  

Things To Look For In a Managed DNS Provider

DNS may run in the background, but make no mistake—it’s on the frontlines of the internet landscape. Choosing the right DNS partner should never be a decision made haphazardly. Always do your due diligence and research each prospective provider carefully, and weigh the pros and cons. You want to select a provider that offers advanced, custom solutions that not only fit your organization’s needs today, but that can scale with you in the future. You also want a provider that has a rock-solid infrastructure, consistent, industry-leading f speeds, high uptime and reliability, and last but not least, outstanding customer service. 

Schedule a demo with our DNS experts today to see how Constellix can help your organization. Here, you’re not a customer—you’re a partner!

Related Resources:

Free vs. Paid Authoritative DNS

What is a root server? Definition and mechanics

Priority DNS Security - image

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