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Get faster Internet with better DNS

Optimizing DNS can make your users happier, more efficient, and more productive.

You might not think shaving milliseconds off the time it takes to look up websites via the Domain Name System is a big deal. Think again. By optimizing your DNS lookups, you can save real time and make life a bit more pleasant every day.

As you know, DNS is the Internet’s master address book. DNS directs traffic to websites and email to your inbox by mapping a domain name you can remember, like google.com, to an IPv4 address such as 216.58.217.206. For all practical purposes, every time you do something on the Internet, you start by invisibly interacting with DNS.

What you may not know is that DNS lookup takes an average of 32 milliseconds. That may not sound like much, but all but the most simple web pages require dozens of DNS lookups.

Every link, program, and image not on a page's site demands a DNS lookup. For example, those social network links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter on this page? They all require separate DNS lookups. Does a page use Google Fonts for its text? That requires lookups, too.

It all adds up. No one likes a slow Internet.  So, when you speed up your DNS lookups, everyone gets faster Internet performance. Here's how you do it.

Find a faster DNS provider

There are faster and slower DNS providers. Typically, the DNS provided by your ISP is slow. DNS speeds are not a priority for them, and it shows. For DNS providers, however, it's all about speed. With multiple, global points of presence (PoP), they can also deliver high-speed lookups for both your home and remote offices.

There are many DNS providers. To get the latest on who's fast and who's not, check out PerfOps' DNS Performance. Some of the most trustworthy, high-performance DNS public resolvers and their IPv4 DNS addresses include:

You should be aware that, like any other business, DNS providers can close their doors. For example, Norton ConnectSafe was a well-regarded free public DNS resolver, but it shut down in November 2018. So, keep an eye on your service once you've settled on one.

How do you pick one out? Well, it's just not which provider is the fastest. You see, speed is a relative term when it comes to DNS resolvers.

When it comes to speed, a lot depends on how "close" you are, in network speed terms, to a given DNS resolver. If you're just down the road from an OpenDNS PoP, it will be the fastest DNS resolver. An office in Perth, Australia, almost 2,500 miles from the OpenDNS Sydney PoP, might be better served by DNS Australia.

To find out which will work best for you, you must test them from each office. You can do this with the Unix/Linux-based BIND dig command.

From a Unix/Linux shell, you'll want to run dig with this syntax: dig @IP address of DNS router test.site.com. So, for example, to see how fast Google Public DNS responds to a DNS request for hpe.com, you'd run:

dig @8.8.8.8 hpe.com

There's also now a Linux-based open source DNS Performance Test, a shell script named DNSPerfTest. It enables you to test the performance of the most popular DNS resolvers from your location.

If you can't run dig, you can use the Geektools Dig webpage to run the same queries.

You should change the target website every time you run the test. That's because your system may be caching the DNS query results. That means, the next time you check, even when you're telling it to use another DNS, the results will be faster because the results are already waiting on your system.

Once you've kicked the virtual tires of all the DNS resolver services, you can pick the one that works best for you. Now, you'll need to set up your devices to use these new services.

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Optimize your devices' DNS

I'm using Cloudflare as an example, but these techniques will work with any DNS provider.

Router

If you're using a router for your office network DNS settings—and you probably are—log into it and find your DNS server settings. Once there, note down your existing DNS records and replace them with the following:

  • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
  • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001

That's it. The next time your computers look up a website, they'll use the 1.1.1.1 DNS services.

Windows

With Windows 10:

  1. Click on the Start menu.
  2. Click on the Settings icon.
  3. Click on Network & Internet.
  4. Click on Change adapter options.
  5. Double-click on the active network adapter.
  6. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  7. Click Use The Following DNS Server Addresses.
  8. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
  • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
  • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001

With Windows 7 and earlier, click on the Start menu, then click on Control Panel and follow these instructions:

  1. Click on Network and Internet.
  2. Click on Change Adapter Settings.
  3. Right click on the Wi-Fi network you are connected to, then click Properties.
  4. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (or Version 6 if desired).
  5. Click Properties.
  6. Write down any existing DNS server entries for future reference.
  7. Click Use The Following DNS Server Addresses.
  8. Replace those addresses with the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses:
  • For IPv4: 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1
  • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001

MacOS

For macOS, open System Preferences, and then do the following:

  1. Search for DNS Servers and select it from the drop-down.
  2. Click the + button to add a DNS Server and enter 1.1.1.1.
  3. Click + again and enter 1.0.0.1.
  4. Click OK, then click Apply.

Linux

With Linux, use Network Manager. There, click the IPv4 or IPv6 tab to view your DNS settings, and then do the following:

  1. Set the Automatic toggle on the DNS entry to Off.
  2. Provide the 1.1.1.1 DNS addresses in the DNS entries field:
  • For IPv4: 1.0.0.1
  • For IPv6: 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001

      3. Click Apply, then restart your browser.

Android

On Android, it's far harder to set up DNS than with other operating systems. While Cloudflare has an app for its DNS service, generally speaking, the easiest way, which works across most Android devices, is to install DNS Changer.

This app works by creating a local virtual private network on your device. This VPN exists only within your device and your mobile or Wi-Fi connection. To use it with Cloudflare, you'd place 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1 in as your DNS entries.

iPhone

From your iPhone's home screen, open the Settings app, and then do the following:

  1. Tap Wi-Fi, then tap your preferred network in the list.
  2. Tap Configure DNS, then tap Manual.
  3. If there are any existing entries, tap the - button and Delete next to each one.
  4. Tap the + Add Server button, then type 1.1.1.1.
  5. Tap the + Add Server button again, then type 1.0.0.1. This is for redundancy.
  6. Tap the Save button on the top right.

Concluding connections

How much difference will this make? It will probably save each of your staff a few seconds a day, potentially on every webpage load. Add it all up and that's a real savings on time. And, given how everyone likes their Internet to run as quickly as possible, that should make everyone happier, and that's always a good thing in any company.

Pick the best DNS: Lessons for leaders

  • DNS query optimization is an easy way to improve staff Internet speeds.
  • Faster DNS means more efficient network use.
  • All this adds up to happier employees.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.