Tonight I was pondering what I should blog about. I’m trying to be a little more regular in my blogging. I noticed an email from DNSMadeEasy, an enterprise DNS service I utilize, apologizing for a recent outage – their first in eight years – caused by a massive DDoS attack. Ahh, here is my topic.
What is DNS?
To understand DNS you have to understand a little bit about the architecture of the internet. Namely, we have clients, hosts, and dns servers (this is a vast oversimplification). The clients are workstations (e.g. the computer you are reading this blog post on), the hosts are servers that hold a specific website(s) (e.g. the server this blog post is hosted on), and a dns server is the white pages that allows a client to find a host.
See, computers operate off IP addresses like this: 188.8.131.52. But we type in URLs like this: www.daveenjoys.com. The client transparently sends a request out to a DNS server saying, “Hey, what is the IP address of www.daveenjoys.com” to which the DNS server should reply “184.108.40.206”. You can think of the IP address as a “phone number” and the “url” as a name (e.g. Mackey, Dave).
Do I Need a DNS Service?
The quick answer is – yes – but not necessarily an enterprise dns service. See you need a DNS service that allows you to lookup IP addresses, but you don’t necessarily need one to keep IP address / URL translation information about your domains – unless you own some domains. For most people, the DNS servers that are automatically and transparently configured by their ISP (Internet Service Provider – e.g. Comcast, Verizon, AOL). But if you host a website (say www.daveenjoys.com or www.yahoo.com) you need DNS servers.
Do I Need an Enterpise DNS Service?
The quick answer is no. Most hosts provide DNS services with their hosting packages. You go to a site like Bluehost or WebWizGuide and they bundle the DNS services right in. If not, usually your domain registrar will bundle in DNS services. So why use enterprise dns services? Its all about quality…
Services like DNSMadeEasy offer features such as:
- Faster propagation of updates1Think back to our analogy of a phone book. These books quickly become outdated. If you change phone numbers as a business – how long do you have to wait for your customers to get an updated phone book with your new number? Could be a while. In a similar way, when an update is made to one’s DNS records this can take a while (these days, usually 24 hrs.) to propagate – in which time your customers are hitting the wrong number. DNSMadeEasy and company make this into a seconds/minutes update process.
- Failover between IPs2What if one of your servers goes down? DNSMadeEasy makes it easy to rotate visitors over to another server. This can also be accomplished by a load balancer – and in many cases should be – but DNSMadeEasy provides a simple and quick solution to a sometimes complicated problem.
- 24/7 Support.
- Better Security / Defense Systems against hacker attacks.
Honestly, I don’t really need an enterprise DNS service myself. Most of my websites are pretty low scale. I purchased a plan with DNSMadeEasy when I attempted to launch Informed Network – a social news website for IT professionals. I keep DNSMadeEasy services b/c its a ridiculously low $60/year, the service is excellent, and I want to be ready for when I do ramp up for my next big project.
DNSMadeEasy may have lost their never-been-down crown (over eight years!), but I’m sticking with them. I’ve been happy with their service, their prices beat out the competition by orders of magnitude, and hey – look – they put up a new and slicker website!