So You Need A DNS Server?

In a previous blog post, I talked about why you should care about DNS. Now I’d like to talk about whether you need your own DNS server or not and what your options are.

Like I said before, most people don’t need to know much.  They don’t own their own domain name and they use whatever DNS servers their Internet Service Provider gives them to use.  Most of the time, that’s completely transparent to the end-user.

But if you’re running a business, you probably need to own a domain name and you might not want to use your ISP’s DNS servers for various reasons.  If you’re a geek, you might want your own domain and DNS server just because.  Why wouldn’t you just use whatever DNS server your ISP gives you to use?

  • You need your own domain name.  You want to provide your customers and your employees with branded web, email, or other network services.
  • You have an isolated network.  Your internal network may not be directly connected to an internet connection, but you still need to provide internal network services to your employees.
  • You want or need more control over your DNS service than your ISP provides.
  • Your ISP doesn’t provide DNS hosting services for your domain.
  • You can’t or won’t trust your ISP’s DNS services.  (Just why are you using that ISP?)
  • You’re paranoid, you’re wearing a tin-foil hat, and you’re proud of it.
  • You’re a geek and it’s a (“fun”) learning experience.

If you don’t need to run your own domain, all you need is a DNS resolver.  You could use the free Open DNS resolvers I mentioned in my blog or set up your own DNS server with whatever hardware you have handy.  It’s not that difficult and I’ll tell you all about that in a future post.  

One advantage of having your own DNS resolver is that you can run with far less risk of Denial of Service and Cache Poisoning attacks that compromise your DNS service.  The disadvantage is that you do have to do at least a little bit of housekeeping from time to time to keep it working properly.  If computers scare you, this is not a good option — but in that case you probably wouldn’t be reading my blog, would you?

If you do need your own domain, you don’t necessarily have to build your own DNS server.

There are commercial DNS providers such as Verisign, Dotster, and GoDaddy who can host your domain for you and provide you with a user-friendly web interface to manage your domain.  This may not be a good fit if you have internal application servers and need to provide full DNS services to your internal network.

If your needs are more complicated, you can buy a DNS appliance: a special kind of server specifically built to make it easy for companies to run multiple DNS servers on their own networks.  Infoblox, BlueCat, and VitalQIP are all examples of vendor-supported DNS appliances.  They will help you with your setup, provide you with important software updates, and give you ongoing support when you need it, but you’ll have to pay annual maintenance fees on a support contract.

If you need to have your own server, you have some technical know-how on staff, and an appliance is too expensive to consider, you can build and manage your own DNS servers.  (You usually need more than one — I’ll tell you about that later).  In some cases, you can use off-the-shelf hardware or even an old system that’s just lying around.

My next blog will tell you how to register your own domain name, and a few things you should know about.  Following blog posts will talk about how to build and run your own DNS server.  Send your DNS questions to me at dns-adept at crossadept.com and I’ll try to address them in a future blog post.

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2 Comments

Filed under DNS

2 responses to “So You Need A DNS Server?

  1. Pingback: DNS – One Server (Does Not) Fit All | GeekAdept

  2. Pingback: Reblog: 7 reasons to use 3rd party DNS | GeekAdept

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