Improving Home Networking with OpenDNS

One bottleneck for web browsing of which many people are not necessarily aware is DNS lookups. For those that don’t know, DNS stands for Domain Name Service. Routers on the Internet do not know what to do with a website name, such as http://www.espn.com. A DNS server is responsible for translating a website name into an IP address, which routers on the Internet know how to handle, allowing them to route you to the website that you want to visit. So, when you type a website in you browser, a query is first sent to a DNS server to translate the website name into an IP address. Once the translation is done, your browser then requests the webpage from the IP address. If you request a webpage that has content from other websites, then your browser will have to make multiple DNS queries, in sequence. For example, imagine a scenario in which you go to some website called http://www.xxxxxxxxxx.com that displays a graphic which is located at http://www.yyyyyyyyyy.com. The following steps will be taken:

  1. Your browser will query a DNS server asking it to translate http://www.xxxxxxxxxx.com into an IP address.
  2. Upon receipt of the IP address your browser sends a message to the IP address, asking it for its content.
  3. As your browser receives the content, it starts to display it but realizes it needs a graphic from http://www.yyyyyyyyyy.com. So, your browser makes another DNS query, asking for the IP address of http://www.yyyyyyyyyy.com.
  4. Upon receipt of http://www.yyyyyyyyyy.com’s IP address, your browser then fetches the graphic.

As you can see, slow DNS lookups can be a bottleneck for browsing. Most people’s home network is configured to use the DNS server provided by their ISP. Unfortunately, that server may be overloaded or may just be slow.  Fortunately, OpenDNS provides free DNS services that are fast, in my experience.  So, if you suspect that slow DNS lookups are a problem, give OpenDNS a try to see if it improves your preformance.

In addition, OpenDNS provides useful features that are not available from normal DNS servers.  For example, if you are about to visit a phishing website, OpenDNS will redirect you to warn you of the danger.  They also attempt to correct spelling mistakes in website names, on-the-fly.  For example, if you type http://www.espn.cmo on your browser, OpenDNS will still direct you to http://www.espn.com.  OpenDNS is easy to use also.  Directions for using it are contained on their website.

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~ by Ryan Lefever on March 18, 2007.

3 Responses to “Improving Home Networking with OpenDNS”

  1. Thanks for the writeup!

  2. OpenDNS is really great. But you really should review their privacy policy before switching. They will know everything about your internet habits.

  3. Good point about reading the privacy policy Daniel. I would add that your home internet service provider can collect the same information.

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