With the rise of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks using a high-quality DNS hosting provider is very important to the redundancy of your website. There is nothing worse for visitors than your website being inaccessible. Check out these 10 free DNS hosting providers you can use to implement a multiple DNS provider setups and get rid of that single point of failure.
What is DNS?
DNS, which stands for domain name system, is an Internet service that translates domains names into IP addresses. For example, when you visit KeyCDN.com it must look up the corresponding IP address to that hostname behind the scenes. This query is performed by a Domain Name Server (DNS server) or servers nearby that have been assigned responsibility for that hostname. You can think of a DNS server as a phone book for the internet. A DNS server maintains a directory of domain names and translates them to IPs.
Why Reliable DNS Hosting is Important
Choosing a reliable DNS hosting provider is critical because it can affect everything from the redundancy of your website, speed, and even security.
If you are running a business, you should never have one single point of failure. DNS hosting providers do allow you to configure secondary nameservers, but then you are assuming that all of their services won’t be affected. It is like storing a backup of your computer files on an external hard drive in your house. There could be a fire and all of the sudden you have lost both your computer and your files. Just as it is important to store backups offsite, it can also be beneficial to use multiple DNS, providers.
A common approach is to configure one of the DNS providers as primary and the other as secondary, slaved to the primary provider. This means that your zones records are synchronized from the primary to the secondary. For example, if a lookup fails and times out to your first DNS server it queries the next DNS server until the correct IP address is returned, or it is unable to resolve as seen in the infamous “This webpage is not available” error below.
ISPs do cache DNS however which means if your first provider goes down it will still try to query the first DNS server for a period of time before querying for the second one. A quick way to fix this is simply by temporarily changing the TTL (time to live) setting for the DNS record, and route your traffic to the second DNS server until the outage is fixed.
In general practice, it is better to keep a longer TTL for DNS records because this means your ISP will have the DNS cached, and users might not even notice if your DNS provider goes down for a short period of time. For example, if your TTL record is set to a week on Monday, and your DNS provider is down from Monday night through Thursday, your users will not see any downtime due to your ISP caching the DNS.
Speed also plays a role with DNS. Using a fast DNS hosting provider ensures there is less latency between the DNS lookup and TTFB. You can test the DNS lookup time and TTFB with a website speed test tool.
Just like with content delivery networks, DNS hosting providers also have multiple POPs. In general, the more locations, the better as this means there will more likely be a DNS server closer to the visitor, decreasing the lookup time. But remember, ISPs also cache the DNS so by setting a longer TTL it means fewer queries to your DNS servers.
According to Kaspersky in Q1 2015, 23,095 DDoS attacks were reported, targeting web resources in 76 countries. DDoS, or Distributed Denial-of-Service, is a type of DOS attack in which it attempts to make a machine or network resource unavailable. DDoS attacks usually involve more than one–and often thousands–of unique IP addresses and often spoof DNS queries.
This is where having multiple DNS providers is vital. Read about what the Canopy.co team learned when a DDoS attack took out their DNS provider.
The Domain Name Server (DNS) is the Achilles heel of the Web. The important thing is that it’s managed responsibly. Tim Berners-Lee – Inventor of the Web
Some free DNS hosting providers are equipped with features such as firewall policies, rate limiting, filtering, and blocking that can help mitigate and prevent DDoS attacks. And of course having multiple DNS providers means that if one is taken down from a DDos attack you can always resort to your secondary.
10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2017
Here is a list of the top 10 free DNS hosting providers, listed in no particular order.
Hurricane Electric Internet Services provide a 100% free DNS hosting service with strong connectivity all over the world. Their network is made up of over 60 POPs and supports IPv6 everywhere. If you are looking for a solid DNS provider, we recommend giving this one a try.
NS1 is a data driven DNS provider with speeds faster than many other top-tier providers. You can customize your DNS with their powerful filters, use real-time data from your infrastructure for automatic traffic management, and get next-level performance and reliability. They even provide a developer-friendly REST API. Get 500k queries/month, 50 records, 1 Filter Chain, and 2 monitoring jobs for free.
Read about how to use NS1 as a secondary DNS provider.
CloudFlare is probably one the largest free DNS hosting providers. But they are also technically a managed DNS host which means you don’t have as much control. However, they do provide you with additional security features such as rate limiting, filtering, and blocking. Cloudflare’s speeds are also faster than most premium DNS providers.
Rackspace offers free DNS hosting and management for current customers. They feature automated migrations, IP Anycast routing, load balancing, and flexible access via their cloud control panel and RESTful API.
FreeDNS offers Free DNS, Dynamic DNS hosting, static DNS hosting, as well as domain hosting. They have been in operation since 2004 and have a long history of providing solid free DNS hosting. Their entire network is now routinely processing over 7 billion DNS requests per month.
The free plan from ClouDNS offers 4 DNS servers, 3 zones, Dynamic DNS, round robin, native IPv6 support, and has no limits or restrictions on the records or requests. They also recently introduced premium plans with DDoS protected servers and GeoDNS.
GeoScaling offers FREE (up to 1 Million DNS Requests per month) managed DNS services with unique features. Redirect your users by Country, AS number, uptime, server load and custom rules, at the DNS level. Low TTL and support for most types of records including SRV. Dynamic DNS support and the ability to upload, paste and import BIND zone files.
Namecheap is probably best known for their domain registration services, but they also offer free DNS hosting featuring DynamicDNS. Namecheap’s FreeDNS can work great as a backup to your primary DNS service.
1984 is a web hosting company that also offers a FreeDNS service, available through their easy-to-use web interface. Apart from normal DNS records they also allow web redirects.
BuddyNS is a free secondary DNS service and is probably one of the easiest services to use. They feature automatic synchronization with master within 10 minutes, or immediately with SyncNOW! and NOTIFY. BuddyNS boasts a 100% uptime since inception with 8 POPs around the world. They even have Cpanel/WHM integration.
Dynu is a free DNS (dynamic) service provider that has been operating since 1997. They offer a forever free plan in which you can have 4 domains, 4 subdomains, 4 MX records, 4 custom DNS records, 4 web redirects, as well as offline settings. They also include the following records: A, AAAA, CNAME, PTR, TXT, SPF, SRV, HINFO.
DNS Hosting Providers Comparison
How do the free DNS providers stack up against the premium DNS services? They do quite well actually. CloudFlare, Hurricane Electric, and NSOne report great speeds as well as market share.
DNS Speed Comparison Report
Who offers the best free DNS? As you can see below a majority of the free DNS providers we mentioned above are competing neck and neck with the speeds of premium providers.
DNS Hosting Market Share
Cloudflare holds a majority of the market share when it comes to DNS hosting. Amazon comes in a close second and from there on it is pretty divided. You can see more of where all of the free providers stand on this full DNS market share list.
As you can see, there are many excellent free DNS hosting providers out there with a variety of different features. Don’t wait until disaster strikes, think about implementing a multiple DNS server setups for additional redundancy and to help mitigate and prevent DDoS attacks.
Do you have a free DNS hosting provider you use that we missed? Feel free to comment below and let us know what your experience has been.
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