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What is DNS Vendor Lock-in and Why You Should Avoid It

December 8, 2020
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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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A horde of zombies is about to overtake you. You have no weapon, no food or water, and you have no backup. You have three options. First choice: Just give up and accept that you’re about to join the ranks of the walking dead (or that there won’t be enough left of you to matter). Second choice: Hole up in a fortified building that only has one way in or out and hope they don’t break down the door (and you don’t starve to death). Third choice: A fortified building that has a front and back exit, and that’s easily defendable.

Okay, I think we can all agree that the first choice is just plain “rotten.” Thanks, but I’ll pass. And, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that if a horde of the walking dead was trying to eat your brains, that you’d avoid getting cornered at all costs (call me crazy).

Why, then, would you let yourself get trapped into an exclusive DNS or Cloud Service Provider (CSP) contract? In essence, you’re backing yourself into a corner—brains (aka networks) ripe for the picking!

What is DNS Vendor Lock-in?

Vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in, is just what it sounds like. It’s when a company signs up with one DNS provider or CSP and is only able to use that company’s services. And typically, the company is locked into the contract for several years.

When you go all-in with one provider, you have essentially chosen the second choice of the above scenario. The DNS or cloud service provider you’ve chosen may be strong, but at some point, “zombies” are going to overwhelm the door.

How Are Companies Lured Into Proprietary Lock-ins in the First Place?

In the case of DNS and content delivery networks (CDN), the zombies are large or unexpected spikes in domain traffic, DDoS attacks, or other types of cyber threats. Choosing a provider with no “back” exit or that doesn’t play nice with other services leaves your domain vulnerable. If that provider goes down, so does your domain. This can cost companies thousands of dollars per minute. And as they say, the bigger you are, the harder you fall. Or in this case, the more money you lose.

choosing a provider with no back exit leaves your domain vulnerable

Convenience – Perhaps the biggest appeal to signing up with just one CSP is convenience. There’s only one provider to deal with and you can have all your DNS and CDN services in one place. This can make it easier to manage your DNS and cloud services.

Ease of Use – Along with having everything in one place, when a company uses the same provider for all of their services, they often find it easier to use. There’s usually just one interface and they don’t have to do multiple configurations across different platforms.

Discounts – The ability to bundle services and receive a discount can be as big a lure as a convenience when it comes to signing an exclusive provider contract. To seal the deal, most CSPs offer big discounts if a company chooses to use their services exclusively.

The Problem With Exclusive DNS and Cloud Service Provider Contracts and Why You Should Avoid Them

As mentioned above, there are benefits to signing up with one provider. However, the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to DNS and CDN strategies.

Lack of Features and Limited Infrastructure

Many times, companies are forced to sacrifice certain features to go all-in with one provider. Even if a CSP does have all the features you’re looking for at the time of sign up, that doesn’t mean they will in the future. Not only that, companies who sign exclusive contracts often build their infrastructure and APIs solely around this one provider.

But what happens when your business grows?

Being tied down to one provider can seriously limit your technological growth. If you build your APIs around just one provider, you’ll be stuck only being able to evolve your infrastructure according to the capabilities of their platform. If they don’t advance, your options are limited.

As Your Business Scales, Your Costs Increase and the Price For Change is Steep

Even if you’re happy with the features of your chosen provider, your costs can dramatically increase as your business scales. Remember those discounts you received when you signed on? Those are typically just for new customers (kind of like a cable service promotion). Those prices also reflected service costs for the size your business was at the time you signed on.

Furthermore, if you decide you want to break up with your current provider, there is often a huge financial penalty to do so. And if you have to develop new APIs to work with different or newer services, the costs are even higher.

Watch Your Back So You Don’t Get Trapped in DNS Vendor Lock-in

There are several things to consider when looking for a DNS or cloud service provider.

  1. Plan For the Future: Consider a Multi-Cloud Strategy
    Even if you aren’t ready to work with another service or provider doesn’t mean you won’t need to in the future. This is also helpful because you can develop your APIs to work with other platforms in the event your main provider relationship doesn’t work out. Whatever strategy you decide on, you should update your own stack and check compatibilities between multiple vendors.
  2. Grab Some Coffee (or Your Beverage of Choice) and Review the Fine Print
    No one likes to read the fine print. It’s about as fun as getting torn apart by zombies. Okay, maybe it’s a little better than that would be… Just reading the terms and conditions of a contract can save you tons of headaches, time, and money! Remember, it’s not what you’re told by a sales rep that’s binding, it’s what’s in your contract. Most notably, check for:
  3. Termination clauses – Be sure you know your provider’s cancellation policy. Is there an advanced cancelation notice that’s required? If you miss this window, can you still cancel with a fee, and if so, what is that fee?
  4. Migration fees – Even if some providers let you cancel at any time, they often include exuberant fees to transfer your data to another provider. This can make companies reluctant to switch and can be completely cost-prohibitive in some cases.
  5. Interoperability – It’s always best practice to ensure your products and services work with multiple providers and vice versa. Make sure there’s nothing in your contract that limits you from doing this whenever possible. Be wary of legacy hardware and systems on your own networks, as well as your DNS and CSP providers.
  6. Don’t Forget About Auto-Renewals
    It’s common practice these days for service providers to include an auto-renew option in a contract. A small discount is also often offered for choosing this option. That’s all good and well, but forgetting your renewal date can cost you big time – or leave you stuck using a provider you’re unhappy with.
  7. Choose a Provider That Doesn’t Lock You in, in the First Place
    One of the easiest ways to prevent vendor lock-in in a multi-cloud environment is to choose a provider that doesn’t force exclusive contracts on you. Or at least, try finding a provider with a straightforward cancellation policy. For example, at DNS Made Easy and Constellix, you can work with multiple providers and you can cancel your service at any time. Going with DNS Made Easy or Constellix would be akin to choosing option 3 in my opening zombie scenario. In fact, Constellix offers a Multi-CDN solution that will help you get the most out of all your CDN networks and guarantees 100% uptime, real-time anomaly detection, and top speeds. You might want to look into it, just saying.

Moral of the Story

The big takeaway here is that if you’re not considering a multi-cloud strategy, you should be. Vendor lock-in can cause all kinds of problems for your domains and your business.

As much as we’d love for the internet to be a safe place, cyber Neegans with their Lucilles (aka keyboards) will always be there. And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that things happen that are beyond our control. Countless domains, from retailers, schools to game sites, and more were simply overwhelmed due to the sudden demand for online services in 2020.

Expect the unexpected, and you’ll be ahead of the curve. Companies with the strongest networks and DNS strategies in place pre-pandemic, stayed online while others suffered outages. Much of this could have been avoided if organizations simply avoided getting locked into an exclusive DNS or CSP contract.

For information on Constellix or DNS Made Easy products and services contact us. Our specialists will be happy to discuss your specific needs and work with you to find the perfect DNS solutions for your business.

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