Break up with your DNS servers

When you sign up for an internet provider, like Earthlink, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, Roadrunner, etc – the first thing you probably look at is the bandwidth that you’ll be getting.

“7mbps down, 780kbps up”

Sounds super, right?

But then how many times do you type a URL in the browser, or even search for something in the search field and get stuck with “Looking up ____________________” in the status bar? It could be that your DNS servers are just taking their good old time at resolving the domain name.

What is a DNS server?

Good question. You probably don’t really care. The DNS (Domain Name System) server handles the very first transaction when you try to load anything that has a domain name in it. This includes web pages, e-mail, and even those pesky ads. It converts human-friendly names (like http://www.google.com) to computer-friendly addresses (like 74.125.95.147). Think of it like a phone book. Easy to remember names translated into hard-to-remember phone numbers.

DNS Diagram

What your DNS Server is doing

So, the faster you can look up the address, the faster you can start downloading the actual website/content that you wanted to.

Why should I break up with my DNS server? I hardly know it!

Well, maybe you shouldn’t.  But chances are that there is probably a faster DNS server out there for you. And no, you don’t even have to write a breakup note.

I’m not going to go into great detail on how to do this, but I have found a wonderful utility that will basically compare your current DNS servers to several free and public DNS servers. It tests the performance of all of them, and then tells you which are fastest. It is called Domain Name Speed Benchmark.

Here are my personalized results (Running under Ubuntu 9.10 64-bit Wine, from Austin, TX on an Earthlink Cable connection):
Domain Name Server Benchmark Names
Domain Name Server Benchmark Response Times
As you can see, there were a few public servers that were much faster than both Earthlink and Time Warner’s Roadrunner DNS servers.

So long, Earthlink DNS servers. It was nice using you all of 20 minutes. [breakup] Helloooooo ThePlanet.com and Level 3!

Run the program for your own personalized results. Then, you can set your DNS servers to the fastest ones. I’m not going to outline how exactly to do this, but trust me – its easy with a little Google searching for “Change DNS Servers” + your operating system.

Happy browsing with less waiting!

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