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Why you should consider using a dedicated DNS Management Service

By Sam Page on 11/01/2016 2:00pm

The vast majority of SMEs don't use dedicated DNS management services. This article explores the pitfalls of this approach, how a dedicated service can help alleviate these issues, and our suggestions for which services to use.

Firstly, let's take a look at the usual ways to manage DNS records without a dedicated service and the potential issues of each one.

1. Hosting DNS records through your Domain Registrar

The majority of SMEs host/manage their DNS records through the online service that they register their domains with (Domain Registrar). While this is OK for many users, effectively these services are offering DNS management for your domain as a free bolt-on. This might sound great, but in reality there are usually a number of problems:

  • Functionality can be quite limited - for example adding some complex MX records isn't always possilbe.
  • Update rates for the records can be quite slow - sometimes only refreshing every 24 hours regardless of your Time To Live (TTL) settings.
  • The services don't necessarily focus on optimising their DNS network for speed and response times compared to a dedicated service.
  • Uptime can be an issue with the services going offline from time to time.

2. Hosting DNS records on your website server

Some companies host their DNS records on the same server that they host their website. Again this can be fine, but there are a number of potential issues:

  • Most website servers aren't optimised to handle DNS requests so can be sluggish compared to a dedicated service.
  • If your server goes offline, so do your DNS records which can cause email issues.
  • You can face capacity issues if you see a huge surge in look-up requests.
  • When you change servers (which no doubt at some point you will need to) you will also need to move your DNS records across and adjust the domain accordingly.

3. Hosting DNS records on your internal server

Companies that have a dedicated IT person/team sometimes consider hosting their DNS records on an internal service to keep everything within their infrastructure. Although it can be OK the issues are similar to using your website server:

  • If your office Internet goes down, or your server needs restarting it can take your DNS records offline and potentially take down both your website and emails.
  • Internet connections into an office aren't usually set-up for a high volume of requests so this can slow down your DNS record look-ups. 
  • As with website server hosting, there can also be capacity issues if you see a huge surge in look-up requests.
  • If you change servers, you'll need to move the DNS records across.

Using a dedicated DNS management service can help alleviate or completely remove these issues. Depending on the service you use, they typically offer the following functionality:

  • Full control of your DNS records with the ability to make any changes required. 
  • Simple to use control panels for managing your records.
  • Refresh rates that you control so that you don't have to wait for lengthy system refreshes.
  • Uptime guarantees and improved reliability.
  • DNS records distributed across multiple geographic locations to improve look-up times for users worldwide.
  • Scaling capacity for surges in requests.

Here are four DNS management services worth considering:

  • DNS Made Easy
    Ideal for start-ups, SMEs and professional home users. Feature rich and reasonably priced starting at $29.95 / year.

  • Rackspace Cloud DNS Manager
    Ideal for start-ups, SMEs and professional home users. The service is technically part of Rackspace's Cloud offering - you can open a free cloud account, and use their DNS Manager free of charge (although it is far more advanced than other free services!). However, I'm not sure how long you can keep a cloud account open if you don't use it for anything else, so you might want to look at using one of their other services as well!

  • CloudFlare
    Much more than just a DNS manager, as CloudFlare offers content distribution and caching, along with a range of website protection features. However, it does also work very well as a DNS tool and is free if you use their basic package. More advanced packages from $20 / month.

  • NetNames Domain Portfolio Management
    NetNames offer an industry leading "managed" domain name service with engineers on call to help you when needed. Aimed more at the corporate and agency markets and prices vary depending on the number of domains in your portfolio.

If you're looking for advice on your website or digital strategy feel free to get in touch and we can offer advice based on your individual circumstances.


Credit: Icon used in blog banner is "database server" by YuguDesign from the Noun Project

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