There are many elements to an internet connection, all of which can affect your network speed. Today I’m going to look at the DNS look-up and how you can improve it.

DNS stands for “Domain Name System”. The internet doesn’t actually understand those memorable web addresses (known as “domain names”), such as google.com, but instead uses IP addresses – a series of 4 (or 6) numbers separated by a full stop (e.g. 11.39.149.27). When you type in a domain name, this is sent to a DNS server which translates this to the relevant IP address. This takes time (relatively speaking – it’s very, very quick but still adds to any delay you see when you access a site).

Your ISP will provide their own DNS server but, as is often the case, the default is not always the best. Only the other week my ISP, BT, had a DNS issue which prevented lots of sites being accessible by BT users. In addition to this, speed is not always their primary concern.

The most well-known third party DNS provider is Google – their system is quick and reliable. However, there are others and they equally worthy of consideration.

Announcement from Verisign

Verisign have now announced their own DNS servers. What they offer, according to their own press release, is stability as well as privacy, as they won’t sell your details.

Namebench

Namebench is a free piece of open source software, available for Windows and Mac, that will find the best DNS for you. Servers work quicker, as a general rule of thumb, the closer you are to them so this software will try local and national DNS’ to see what works best.

When you run it, it will find our your current DNS server and benchmark others against that, eventually displaying a report of its findings. Is it worth trying?

My initial run found a DNS server that was nearly TWICE as quick as my ISP’s default. Ironically, it was another BT DNS server. Naturally, considering the recent issues I also look for a non-ISP one – OpenDNS was nearly 60% quicker than my current DNS.

So, anything that’s speed sensitive (my PS4, for instance) has had its DNS settings change to the new BT server. Anything that needs reliability and speed isn’t so important (for example, my laptop) I’ve updated to OpenDNS. Google DNS was 51% quicker, it’s worth mentioning.

Try it – you really can’t go wrong.

Changing Your DNS Settings

Ok, so you’ve found the details of an alternative DNS server. Now what? Well, first, you need two of them – a primary and (in case of failure) a secondary server.

If you have an ISP branded router you may not be able to change your DNS settings on that, which is a shame as changing it on your router is the quickest way of modifying it on all the devices in your house.

Alternatively, many devices will have the ability, stuck away in their network options, to change this. Those that you can’t change include non-rooted Android phones and Chromebooks. Below are a number of links for popular devices that will explain how to change the DNS settings – obviously use the details of the DNS server that you wish to use, rather than any provided in the instructions…