Finding the best public recursive DNS server


#1

As a webmaster, I am regularly dealing with domains and modifying their DNS settings. For years and years I have been a happy user of OpenDNS, which has super reliable and provided me near instant propagation of DNS record changes.

However, during this winter there has been several occasions where OpenDNS has been super slow in DNS propagation. This is an issue to webmasters, as when one points a domain name (cd-rw.org) to the server’s IP address (123.123.123.123), you have to wait for the update to propagate across the Internet until you can access your site via the domain.

Today I was forced to move away from OpenDNS. I was working on a web project and made domain DNS changes in the morning, but even now 8 hours later OpenDNS resolved the domain incorrectly. Instead of loading mywebsite, I kept seeing a domain parking page. The site worked fine on my mobile, using the mobile operator’s DNS, but not on my PC as my router is configured to use OpenDNS.

There are a ton of good DNS providers out there. One is Google Public DNS, which benefits from their huge infrastructure, but also gives tools to spy on every move you make on the web. Their IPs are easy to remember, making them the number one choice for many:

8.8.8.8
8.8.4.4

Instead I opted for Neustar’s UltraDNS. I did a bit of benchmarking, and it appeared to be the fastest public DNS provider from my location. They also offer content filtering / security enhancements of various levels, blocking spyware, phishing and optionally pornographic and gambling sites. Parents may appreciate these features.

They have 10 different IP adresses to use, so check the list from their website.

And there are many others out there. Here is a list of 10 popular alternatives: Lifewire.com

Have you recently experienced these issues with OpenDNS? What is your favorite public & free DNS provider and why?


#2

Someone from Webxtrakt contacted me saying that they publish a frequently updated benchmark of public DNS providers. Currently Hurricane Electric is at the top of the chart.

Note that the benchmark result depends on your geological/infrastructural location. What is fastest for them may not be best for you. The largest providers do however have a global network, so their results are a good approximate.


#3

This topic started with OpenDNS’ issues, but I figured we could go more general.

The best or fastest DNS for you to use depends on your geological and infrastructural location. The servers responding fastest for someone in Singpore may be different than for a European or North American. The only way to really find out is to benchmark. And there is a good free tool for that.

###GRC’s DNS Benchmark by Steve Gibson

This is a nifty little tool written for Windows, but it also works perfectly on Linux with the WINE emulator.

####The usage is simple:

  1. Add relevant DNS servers, remove the ones that you are not interested in.
  2. Run the benchmark, observe the results.

DNS Benchmark has many servers pre-defined, including Google, OpenDNS and many others. Make sure that your operators’ servers are included. Good candidates include Verisign, DNS.WATCH, Hurricane Electric, DNS Advandate, Level3, among others. See post number 2.

In my case the fastest four was my operator, Hurricane Electric, Google and OpenDNS. With OpenDNS I have experienced issues recently and I am concerned about Google’s world dominance. Therefore I opted for Hurricane Electric as my primary (74.82.42.42) but since they only provide one server IP address, I put my operators’ as secondary.

Hurricane’s public DNS is a weird case. They are a major Internet back-bone operator and have one of the fastest public DNS servers available, but there is not a word about it on their website (He.net). I would be very interested in checking out their privacy policy and any other relevant info.

Does anyone know if He.net provide these details on registered users’ pages?