What are DNS and why do they improve the Internet experience?

DNS is an important Internet protocol used by computers, services or any resource connected to networks. Each telecommunications operator has its own and implements them in your equipment when you contract their Internet services. But there are other alternatives, sometimes better, to improve the browsing experience.

The DNS have several uses, but the main one is to resolve the IP address of the web page or service we are usingby mapping names to IP addresses. We see this with a simple example. Although the IP address of Google’s main web portal is 216.58.210.163, most people reach this computer by specifying www.google.com and not by the IP address. The advantages are obvious, besides being easier to remember, the name is more reliable as the numerical address could change.

To make this protocol work, there are specific servers that act as a means of intercommunication between us and the web pages we visit. They have huge databases in which the relationships between domains and their respective IP addresses are registered. When we try to connect to a web page, the request is sent to the DNS to “translate” or “resolve” that URL.

What does the use of one or another DNS affect?

Beyond the convenience of not having to remember number pairs, there are a number of other features that depend on the capability of each DNS. The first and most obvious is that of performancebecause each DNS service takes a certain amount of time to resolve the conversion and there can be large differences in speed. They can also have an impact in other areas:

  • Improved reliability. If your ISP does not work effectively to maintain its DNS servers you may experience periods where websites load very slowly or even fail to respond. The alternative DNS mentioned above usually provide greater reliability.
  • Parental Controls. If you have small children or other online users and want to set up web filtering, there are a variety of ways to do it. And there are alternatives that do it better than the official ones, configuring the settings, blocking certain categories of websites and access from any device connected to the home network, including consoles, mobiles or PCs.
  • Increased security. Third-party DNS servers offer security features that not all ISPs have. For example, Google Public DNS supports DNSSEC to ensure DNS requests are properly signed. Others, such as OpenDNS, also perform filtering to block phishing portals.
  • Web Censorship – Geo-blocked Content. Some ISPs block access to websites at the DNS level, either because of traffic issues, anti-piracy requests against P2P or political censorship. Often providers in dictatorial countries block at the IP level and the method does not work, but it works with others.
  • DNS database updates. Large public DNS services such as Google or OpenDNS have a good habit of updating their IP address database faster than the DNS servers of most Internet service providers.

What are DNS

How to test the best DNS

There are several methods to test. The easiest for a user is to use specialized third party applications. One of them that you will know because we have cited it in previous articles about DNS is Namebench and another is the one we are going to see in this article.

It is a Free DNS Benchmark from GRC. It is available for Windows and can also be used on macOS or Linux via Wine. The software is available for free from the GRC website and requires no installation. We see a step-by-step:

  • Download the small application (only 166 KB) and run it.
  • Click on the “Nameservers” tab to select the main reference screen and the data pages.
  • Click the “Run Benchmark” button to run the test benchmarks and test the DNS on your computer.
  • If you are interested, click on the “Conclusions” tab for full details of the test.
  • The most interesting and graphical part you will find in “Nameservers > Response Time. If you keep the “Sort Fastest First” option checked, you will see the best DNS in the test by response time, status, provider and location.

In the results image you will see the Fastest active DNS in our zoneevaluating the performance in response time in the resolution of domains. It values its use, but also takes into account the other features and advantages that we have discussed.

How to change the DNS

Changing the DNS can be done on a specific computer or on the entire home network. We explain the process for both:

On a specific PC:

We take as an example a personal computer running Windows 11, although it can really be done in the same way on any platform. As follows:

  • Go to Configuration > Network & Internet >Ethernet.

  • Click on DNS Server Assignment > Edit.
  • Select manual and IPv4.
  • Type the IPs of the primary and alternate DNS.

  • Accept and restart the computer.

In the whole network:

The goal with this function is that all computers that connect to your network will use the DNS you select. To do this you have to act on the router that handles the connection. The easiest access is through the web interface via its access IP address, by entering in any web browser addresses such as 192.168.0.1, 192.168.1.1, 192.168.2.1 (or similar), depending on each router model. Almost all routers of the same brand or model have a specific username/password programmed to facilitate access.

This type of access is public knowledge and is usually as simple as the well-known “admin/admin”. A search on the Web is enough to know them and there are even specialized tools such as RouterPasswords that provides the data for any known brand and model.

Once the IP and password are known, we enter its web interface and modify the section corresponding to the DNS that, depending on the model, we will find in the “Internet Configuration”. We use for the example those of OpenDNS (208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220). Simply set these to be the ones to use and restart the router so that the changes take effect on any device you connect to its network.

Testing the best DNSs and their selection is not a panacea, and its effects will always be limited by the speed and quality of the service broadband service you have contracted. It also depends on the management of features that you must perform every time you install a new router and that we discuss in this special.

In any case, you lose nothing by performing the relevant tests. In most cases the alternative DNS work better than the one provided by the operators, although it will depend on each telco, the geographical location and the performance of each one of them. And not only for performance, but also for security and reliability of the connection, while other more specialized ones are essential in regions where censorship prevails or in the rest to access geo-blocked content.

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