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Friday, July 10, 2009

OpenDNS to surf safely with a few tweaks

OpenDNS is a better DNS service. It makes your Internet safer, faster, smarter and more reliable. It's free, and there's nothing to download. OpenDNS offers DNS resolution for consumers and businesses as an alternative to using their Internet service provider's DNS servers. By placing company servers in strategic locations and employing a large cache of the domain names, OpenDNS usually processes queries much more quickly,[1] thereby increasing page retrieval speed. DNS query results are sometimes cached by the local operating system and/or applications, so this speed increase may not be noticeable with every request, but only with requests that are not stored in a local cache. OpenDNS is not, as its name might seem to imply, open source software.

Type :DNS Resolution Service
Founded :2005
Headquarters :San Francisco, California
Key people :Nand Mulchandani (CEO) David Ulevitch (Founder & CTO)
Employees :20

When you type a domain name, the conversion to an IP address goes through OpenDNS instead to your ISP's server in converting domain names. OpenDNS uses a global network of servers that can be redirected in case of overload or failure which eliminate the intermittent server outages that many broadband subscribers experience. OpenDNS claims to resolve requests quicker than the DNS servers of most ISPs, which means pages should load faster. As a defense against Web-based malware attacks it is second to none.

By filtering the URL requests that come to you through its servers, OpenDNS can block your browser from surfing to phishing sites and other kinds of undesirable content. The service also corrects typos you make, such as google.cmo, and lets you create URL shortcuts for quick access to the sites you visit most often. OpenDNS is currently beta-testing a new SmartCache feature that loads the last known-good address for a Web site, even if its nameserver is offline. This kind of outage can happen due to distributed denial of service attacks. With SmartCache, OpenDNS users can access these sites even though other Internet users cannot.

Setting up OpenDNS:

Create an account on for without an account you're stuck using the default preferences. An account means you are in full control to to access a VPN (virtual private network) or Windows Home Server, take advantage of OpenDNS's powerful filtering options, add more to block sites in such categories as pornography, illegal downloads, social networking, or video sharing in PhishTank list to block phishing sites.

Set up a free account at and sign up.
Change the DNS servers in your router to two OpenDNS-controlled IP addresses: and

Customize your OpenDNS settings via the service's Dashboard.

To customize OpenDNS for a typical home PC user, you would first add your home network using the Networks tab. By configuring OpenDNS in your router and adding your home network, you can protect all your computers and network devices — including smartphones that connect via Wi-Fi — with the same account settings. If you use multiple networks, you can add them all under the same account.

When you travel, you can change the DNS settings for your laptop's Wi-Fi and Ethernet adapters to connect to OpenDNS directly, rather than relying on your home network to make the connection. Instructions for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers are available on the OpenDNS Change DNS settings page. (It's fine to use both computer and router OpenDNS at the same time.)

Next, click the Settings tab to choose and customize your Web-filtering preferences. You can also create custom lists of allowed and blocked sites, regardless of the level of protection you select.

Click Settings, Advanced Settings. The OpenDNS Advanced Settings page lets you customize your use of the proxy service. This is where you can add your VPN or Web server, activate the SmartCache feature, and enable dynamic IP updating — which is particularly useful for travelers.

To reach a VPN or corporate intranet domain, or to access such resources as network printers and network shares, you have two options. For home networks, simply add a "Domain typo exception" in the name of your VPN server or network domain; for example, Together with dynamic IP updating, this solves a problem with remote access and Windows Home Server.

If you're already running a local DNS server such as Windows Server 2008 with Active Directory, your second option is to forward only external DNS requests to the OpenDNS servers and continue to resolve local domains locally. In this case, you update the external DNS settings to OpenDNS on your server, not in your router or client computers.

People who rely on a dynamic IP address from their ISP or who travel frequently can download and install the OpenDNS Updater, which is available on the OpenDNS Support page.

Try OpenDNS's speed claims with the handy DNS Performance Test from Silverwolf's Auditorium once you've got it configured properly. Run the test on your regular ISP's DNS servers and on OpenDNS's servers.

Even if you find a small performance deficit from OpenDNS, the minor slowdown should be evaluated against the security and reliability benefits OpenDNS can bring. If you find a larger difference, this may argue against using OpenDNS from your area. In that case, you can also try DNS Advantage, a similar service from NeuStar. DNS Advantage is still under development but will soon be adding site-blocking and typo-correction services similar to those offered by OpenDNS.

OpenDNS directs you to a search page, which contains advertising that supports the servic if there's no easy match when a user types a domain name that doesn't exist is an OpenDNS feature. Few Internet services as useful as OpenDNS are truly free and as long as the ads don't get in the way this is a small price to pay.

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