DNS industry expert of 14 years, and founder of DNS Made Easy Steven Job has been asked his expert opinion on the state of DNS and the importance of outsourced DNS hosting. The most common question he’s been asked is, how do you determine which DNS hosting solution is right for you?
I’ve been asked this question often, usually by network admins who have been stuck managing whatever DNS management solution their predecessor left them with. Other times, it’s the less technically inclined who find they’re paying for a DNS hosting service, but don’t realize there is more than one kind of hosting service.
As web performance services move into the cloud, it has become paramount that businesses of all sizes invest in cloud-based network solutions: from CDN services, to web hosting, and DNS management. Here are my top tips when evaluating and deciding on which solution is best for you.
Know What You Want
The overall goal is to find a reliable DNS hosting service, that means: the least potential risk of downtime. After that, you need to determine what your personal needs are. Here are a few of the criteria I’ve had clients share with me over the years:
- Limited maintenance or complete control
- Global infrastructure or single location
- Geographical routing/segmenting for international orgs.
- Backup plan in the event of outages or slow-downs
- Guaranteed uptime
- Traffic manageability on a global scale
- Granularity in lookups and filters
Once you know what kind of features and requirements you need in a host, that’s when you can start looking at the three most popular options. You can either use your registrar’s DNS hosting, set-up your own in-house DNS, or use a third party provider. We’ll go over all of these in detail, and discuss which solutions are ideal for your needs.
Using Your Registrar
Most DNS registrars include DNS hosting as an included service when you register a domain. The idea is you can set it up once and never have to touch it again. This is a viable solution for admins who don’t want to manipulate their query traffic. Rather, they want a one and done service that they don’t have to deal with until they want to move.
The biggest problem here is you end up putting all of your eggs in one basket. It doesn’t matter if only one of these services ends up having an issue, because just one piece of the puzzle could bring your whole site to a crawl… or worse, knock your website offline. The only solution is to wait for it to come back online, or move to another provider.
The other issue is some admins don’t think they need query management, or location-based features, because they have small amounts of traffic in one or two regions. However, if their business takes off and suddenly their site sees unprecedented amounts of global traffic, they’ll be knocked offline or international users will experience drastic latency.
And finally, what if later on down the road you decide you want to change registrars? You’ll need to set up a backup version of your DNS somewhere. You can easily solve this by having a Secondary DNS provider, but most people don’t remember until it’s too late.
If you’re a little more tech savvy, you could host your own DNS. After you read up on how to build your own DNS server, you’ll have to invest a pretty good chunk of money into infrastructure, software, and then of course maintenance. You also have to shell out even more for a reliable network provider and of course more bandwidth.
While this option may sound appealing to those who want “complete control” over their DNS hosting, it also creates many more potentials for failure. What if your network isn’t strong enough? What if you didn’t buy enough bandwidth and your server becomes overwhelmed with traffic?
And don’t forget, most in-house facilities are only based out of one location, which leaves your entire network with no geographical redundancy. Most outages are the result of mistakes, an accidently deleted record, or the janitor unplugged a cord… if you don’t have enough redundancy to overcome these simple mistakes, your entire network could go under.
Trust the Experts
Or you can use a “reliable third party provider” who specializes solely in DNS hosting. These companies have massive networks, with dozens of global Points of Presence (PoP). This means there is never a single point of failure, like other options. It also drastically reduces query resolution times, because client’s queries are being answered closer to them (if they’re using an Anycast network).
Outsourced DNS is the preferred solution for most sys admins who prefer to have complete manageability of their query traffic, but without having to support the infrastructure themselves. Many providers use Anycast networks, which means that queries are answered on users’ local or regional servers. These networks are also self-healing and can recover the fastest from regional outages or attacks.
Why Not Use Two?
However there are some admins that need even more layers of security, and choose to use a Secondary DNS Provider. The secondary provider creates a clone of the original zone information. This is basically like creating a body double for your DNS host. If your primary provider fails, the lookup will immediately look to the secondary provider, which will take over the traffic load.
Before you make any decisions, make sure you know exactly what you need from a hosting provider. Then investigate your options, and choose the one that best meets your criteria.