What is DNS?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A DNS or Domain Name System is responsible for pointing your networked or internet-connected computer to the the right website or server for your request. Every networked or internet-connected computer is assigned an IP address. Basically an IP address functions the same was a postal address. Your mail gets delivered to the postal address, the same way that a request to connect is directed to a specific IP address.

DNS for DummiesSay you want to go to OpenDNS’ website. You type in http://www.opendns.com. Your browser will ask a DNS server, “Hey, how do I get to www.opendns.com?” The DNS server will then look it up in its records and reply, “Oh, that. Go to the IP 208.69.38.160 and you’re all set.” Your browser goes to that IP and you see the webpage.

Your ISP or office network (in the case of corporate networks) will usually have their own DNS server. It is not uncommon though for ISP’s and other companies to use DNS services provided by third parties so they don’t have to maintain it themselves. There‘s also the issue of speed. The internet is one gigantic intricate web of interconnected computers. Depending on where you physically are and where the server of the site you’re browsing is, your computer may have to find a route through different servers in different countries. It will ‘hop’ through each before it finds its way to the website’s own server. Your computer will have to find its way through that maze. Services like OpenDNS have servers all over the world and that helps because it can find the fastest route to the computer hosting webpage your going to.

If you would like to try and use a different DNS server to see if that’s faster than you ISP’s, give OpenDNS a try. It’s what I personally use. You also get the added benefits of web content filtering and phishing protection if you want to turn those on. That means it filters out those unsavory porn sites and fake banking sites that try to steal your login credentials. For instructions on how to change the DNS server settings on your Windows computer, go here.

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