OpenDNS – free and extremely useful.

Image representing OpenDNS

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OpenDNS is one of those great services that is simply a no-brainer. It is a bit technical and for the lay-person may take 30 minutes to 1 hr. to understand what exactly the service does, why it is important, and how to get it setup on their home network…but trust me – its worth it.

So, first off, what is OpenDNS? To understand OpenDNS one has to have an understanding of how the internet works. When we want to make a phone call we need to know the phone number of the individual we are calling. If we don’t know this number, we use a phone book to look up their number. We don’t simply page through all the numbers until we find the right one – we have a way of ordering the numbers so we can quickly find the number associated with a specific person – namely, we have their last name, first name in alphabetical order.

Computers work on a similar system – what we call the Domain Name System (DNS). When you type in www.yahoo.com or www.google.com or any other website (www.daveenjoys.com) your computer sends a request out to a DNS server (think a yellow pages or 411) and says, “Hey, what is the number for www.yahoo.com?” The DNS server replies back with something like 69.147.76.15. This is called the “IP Address” of the computer. So, just as you can’t type into your phone “Dave Mackey” and have it dial my cell number – so you cannot type into a computer www.google.com and get that website – it has to find the number and use that to get to the website. Obviously, all of this happens transparently to us as end users – and in a split second.

When you sign up with an Internet Service Provider (AOL, Comcast, Verizon Fios, Earthlink, etc.) they give your computer IP addresses at which their DNS servers reside. Whenever your computer looks for a website – it uses these DNS servers to find out the site’s IP address.

Okay, I know, I know…that was long and boring…But we are almost done. If your ISP provides a DNS server and its free and you never have to even know its there…why would anyone ever want to use OpenDNS? I’m so glad you asked!

  • Speed – The DNS servers provided by ISPs are notoriously slow and this oftentimes results in slow website loading as your computer waits and waits to find out what the IP address of a server is from the DNS server…before it can even try loading the website. OpenDNS is renowned for their speed – and this has continued even with extensive usage by individuals, companies, and organizations throughout the world.
  • Reliability – ISP DNS servers sometimes go down. OpenDNS servers are up all the time. Okay, okay, nobody can be perfect – but they are as close as you can come.
  • Parental Controls – Don’t want your teenager surfing for porn? Worried grandma might get suckered in by one of those phishing scams? OpenDNS provides robust (and free) filtering controls that protect not only against adult materials (if you want) but also against phishing and other illegal and shady scams. There is a huge amount of granularity here as well – that is, you can choose by category exactly what sites can and can’t be visited and you can individually whitelist (allow) or blacklist (disallow) individual sites.
  • Statistics – Want to know how your internet is being utilized? OpenDNS allows you to perform advanced statistical analysis on how your internet is being used. Think your internet is slow? Maybe its because somebody won’t stop downloading massive files all day and night.
  • There’s more, go over and check out OpenDNS’ page on their services to learn about all the great features.

Seriously – OpenDNS is amazing…and its not just for your home – its for your business, your school, your church – and its always free. So what are you waiting for? It’ll be a 30 mins. – 1 hr. well spent!

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