Set Up Third Party DNS for Faster and More Secure Surfing
By Eric Geier
When you type a web site address into a browser, it must first look up the IP address of the site via a Domain Name System (DNS) server before the Web server is located and the Web pages displayed on your screen. Of course, the DNS process usually happens very quickly and isn't noticed when surfing around the Web.
DNS is needed because computer networks are designed to talk using their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. These are four sets of numbers separated by decimal points, such as 126.96.36.199. These aren't very human friendly.
To better picture DNS, think of your browser having to always use a phone book: You give DNS a name and it must look up the number so you're your browser can call it.
Why Use a Third-Party DNS
Most DNS servers, probably like the one assigned to you by your ISP, provide only the simple (but yet very important) function of address translation. However, DNS servers have the ability to provide more functionality to users. Fortunately, you aren't stuck with your ISP's basic service; you can use a third-party.
Here are additional functions DNS servers can possibly provide:
Choose a Third-Party DNS Server
OpenDNS is the most popular and feature-rich third-party DNS out there. It offers all the functions we just discussed in the previous section and then some. The best part is that it offers a free edition that includes most of the features. You can start using its servers (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206) at any time on your router or computers. You can optionally sign up for an account to configure Web filtering and other features.
DynDNS.com's Internet Guide offers some of the features we discussed, including Web filtering. The free basic service lets you define one defense plan and up to 30 white-list and black-list sites each, while the premium services let you define more. The great thing about DynDNS's service is that it also offers dynamic DNS service. This gives your changing Internet IP address a host name so you can easily host servers or remote connections via the Internet. Start using the Internet Guide by creating an account and configuring your router or computers with its servers: 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168.
Google's Public DNS, Comodo's Secure DNS, and Neustar's DNS Advantage are completely free but only feature reliability, speed, and security functionalities. Google's server addresses are 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199, Comodo's are 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206, and Neustar's are 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. No account is required: Simply point your router or computer to their servers.
How to Use a Third-party DNS
When your modem (whether it's dialup, DSL, or cable) connects to the Internet, a DNS server is assigned to your Internet connection, whether automatically or manually configured in the router. Whatever the case, all the computers using the Internet connection will by default use the DNS server assigned to the modem.
You can, however, input an address of another DNS server into your router to make computers use it instead. To do this, start by logging into your router: type its IP address (such as 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1) into a Web browser. Then log in and find the Internet connection settings. There you should find the DNS server fields, usually a primary and secondary. Simply type in the IP addresses of your desired third-party DNS and save the changes.
If you only want certain computers to use another DNS, you can alternatively configure select computers with a third-party DNS:
Remember, if you're using OpenDNS or Internet Guide, you'll probably want to create an account to set up the Web filtering and other features.
Eric Geier is the Founder and CEO of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi with enterprise-level encryption by offering an outsourced RADIUS/802.1X authentication service. He is also the author of many networking and computing books.
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