This week we saw a major outage with Comcast Internet in the Northeast. Personally I use TDS Telecom for my DSL, but one thing I have used for the past few years at my house is OpenDNS and anyone using them were not affected by the outage. Now why was the Comcast outage so interesting? Well first you need to understand how the internet works. For some this is second nature, but for those here is a quick overview. Everything on the Internet uses an IP Address that looks something like 192.168.400.146. Now there is hundreds of thousands of these addresses out there so it would be impossible for any of us to remember them. They are like USPS zip codes in effect, each one is the location of a server, website, or other service. This is where Domain Name Resolution, or DNS comes in. DNS converts these IP addresses into names that we can easily use like www.yahoo.com. So, what did the outage to the Comcast customers mean? Well, all their customers had CONNECTIVITY to the internet, but the Comcast DNS servers they all used to resolve names to IP addresses are what went down. That meant none of their users could basically get to anywhere…….unless they knew the IP address they wanted of course.
OpenDNS is a third party DNS service that provides VERY high uptime on their services. The services provided by OpenDNS are more than just name resolution. They also provide statistics on your DNS requests, as well as category based filtering of content. For many households with children, this is a service you can all make use of. Outside of filtering they also provide basic Phishing and other protection and in many cases faster name lookup. The service is free to sign up for, and there is a basic Family Package for $9.95/month. That gets you 1 year of statistics instead of the standard 2 weeks, which I find useful. In addition as a paying customer you can add custom logo’s to your OpenDNS search page and you can disable the ads.
Setup is simple and all you need is a simple updater to keep your network IP addresses up to date. I have reached out to them to do further integration with DynDNS.org using the company’s child service DNS-O-Matic to pull DynDNS hostnames and relate them to your networks, but so far I have not heard back. Below are a few screen shots of the filtering categories as well as some stats charts. Even if you were not one of the affected Comcast customers I would suggest you look into OpenDNS anyhow. If you are an enterprise they also do enterprise based DNS services for your company which is very useful as your primary forwarding servers for external DNS lookups.
OpenDNS FIltering Categories (Click to Enlarge):
OpenDNS Stats Charts (Click to Enlarge):
OpenDNS Security Protection (Click to Enlarge):