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our Internet service provider runs DNS servers for you, but you don’t have to use them. You can use third-party DNS servers instead, which offer a variety of features that your ISP probably doesn’t.
We’ve covered third-party DNS servers like OpenDNS and Google Public DNS in the past, but now we’ll explain just why you might want to change your DNS server.
Third-party DNS servers can be faster than your ISP’s DNS servers. This isn’t guaranteed — it will depend on your geographic location, how close the third-party DNS servers are to you, and how slow your ISP’s DNS servers are.
If all you care about is speed, you may see an advantage from switching to a third-party DNS server — or you may not. To be sure, you should run a DNS benchmarking tool like Namebench, which will make DNS requests to your current DNS server and other DNS servers, testing how long each server takes to respond.
Note that Namebench can’t benchmark every factor. For example, Google Public DNS and OpenDNS participate in “The Global Internet Speedup” initiative, which allows participating DNS services to know your IP address and respond with IP addresses closer to you, increasing connection speed. Other DNS servers, like the ones offered by your ISP, aren’t as quick to implement such new technologies.
Possible Reliability Improvements
This goes hand-in-hand with the possible speed improvements above. If your Internet service provider does a poor job of keeping their DNS servers running fast and stable, you may experience periods of time when websites fail to load or load very slowly while the DNS request takes some time to resolve. If your ISP isn’t doing their job properly, switching to a third-party DNS server may give you a more reliable experience.
If you have young children and want to set up web filtering, there are a variety of different ways you can do it. One of the easiest ways to configure web filtering is to change your DNS servers to OpenDNS. Change the DNS server on your router and you’ll be able to configure parental control settings on the OpenDNS website, allowing you to block certain categories of websites and view the websites accessed from your home network.
This is particularly convenient because, after changing the setting on your router and setting up parental controls on the OpenDNS website, the settings will apply to every device on your home network — PCs running any operating system, game consoles, smartphones, tablets, and more. When a DNS request is made for such a website’s IP address, OpenDNS returns a different IP address. The user’s browser connects to that address and sees a message saying the website they want to access has been blocked.
Bear in mind that this isn’t foolproof. A user on your network could just change their device’s DNS server to bypass the filtering. Young children wouldn’t think to do this, but teenagers could likely foil it — just like most parental controls.
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