What is OpenDNS?
What exactly is OpenDNS? I've heard that it can be used to make your Internet access faster, but I'm a little fuzzy on how it works, and if there are any gotchas I should know about.
Should You Use OpenDNS?
First, let's define some terms. DNS stands for "Domain Name Service" and is the piece of the Internet that deals with routing and addressing. In a nutshell, DNS converts a human-readable domain name into a machine-friendly IP address. When you ask your browser to fetch a page from the AskBobRankin.com domain, it must query a DNS server to find out the numeric IP address of the domain. That IP address makes it possible for your browser to communicate with the Internet, route your request across the network, and fetch the desired information. The DNS server is typically provided by your internet service provider, but you don't have to use your ISP's DNS service.
Enter OpenDNS - a free, alternative domain name service that separates your DNS operations from your ISP and gives you faster, more reliable Internet access. OpenDNS speeds up your Internet access by connecting you to high-performance DNS servers that are faster and more reliable than the DNS service provided by most ISPs.
OpenDNS is totally free, and setting it up on an individual computer or a home network is easy. There's no software to download or install. To start using OpenDNS on a single computer, you just need to change your TCP/IP Properties so that your DNS server addresses point to OpenDNS. If you have a home network, just login to the router and tweak a couple of settings there. Complete instructions can be found on this OpenDNS Setup page. Note that you DO NOT have to create a free account to use the service.
OpenDNS gives you some additional benefits as well. Here are some of the highlights.
The anti-phishing protection built into OpenDNS can help to protect you from scammers who want to whisk you off to some dark corner of the Internet. OpenDNS utilizes the most respected phishing database technology available, PhishTank. This feature will not only warn you when a site is a phishing site, but it will also prevent you from accessing the site. Learn more about phishing in my companion article Phishing Scams.
Another perk offered by OpenDNS is typo corrections. This feature helps you find the site you're searching for by offering spelling suggestions when you mistype a web address. For example, if you type in "www.disneymoveyclub.com", OpenDNS will display a page that says "You tried to visit www.disneymoveyclub.com, which is not loading. Did you mean disneymovieclub.com?" And in cases where you make a simple typo that OpenDNS can figure out automatically, you'll just go straight to the desired site. For example, if you enter "google.cmo" or "craigslist.ogr" OpenDNS will do the right thing. This is a great alternative to the useless error page that normally appears when you enter a web address incorrectly.
Another great benefit offered by OpenDNS is their shortcut utility. This allows you to assign a shortcut to long web address, similar to AOL keywords. For example, you can create a shortcut like "FF" for "www.FlowersFast.com" or "G" for "www.google.com" so that you can get to these sites without having to enter the entire web address. These shortcuts work great if you have a list of sites that you visit often, or if you have kids who have trouble typing long URLs. The Shortcuts feature requires that you create a free account and be logged in to OpenDNS.
Parental ControlsParental controls are also offered by OpenDNS. What makes OpenDNS's parental controls special is that they offer so many different filtering choices. You can choose a filtering level of High, Moderate, Low, Minimal, None or choose Custom and then select the filtering categories that you want in effect. To create a filter all you have to do is check the box next to the filter category. Or if you like, you can filter specific sites that are off-limits for your kids. Parental Controls also requires an OpenDNS account.
OpenDNS = Better Internet Access
Overall, OpenDNS offers you a safer and more reliable Internet experience. In addition to protecting you from phishing scams and helping you to find the information that you actually want, OpenDNS also increases the speed and reliability of your Internet service. They accomplish this by increasing the speed at which your web pages load and reducing the amount of disruptions to your Internet service. Honestly, I don't see any downside to using OpenDNS. Questions, comments? Post your thoughts below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Apr 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- What is OpenDNS? (Posted: 21 Apr 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved