Website Outage? Hosting Problem or DNS Problem?
Tue, September 11, 2012 at 10:58 AM
Paul Cormier in Hosting

I'm sure you've already heard of DNS otherwise known as the Domain Name Service, but did you know that this service is just as important as your website hosting service to make sure your site remains available to your website visitors?

After a recent GoDaddy outage, there was a flurry of discussion about switching hosting providers. Some were suggesting this or that alternate domain registrar, other were suggesting different website hosting vendors. It seemed all were ignoring the fact that the issue had nothing to do with domain registration or with the web hosting servers themselves, but with GoDaddy's DNS.

The Unreliable DNS Problem

DNS basically provides a service which translates named hosts (e.g. to an IP address (e.g. so that the client, which in this case is a web browser, can connect to the server. If this service isn’t working, then no one will be able to connect to the server where your website is hosted.

DNS service, is a difficult, complex service to provide. Also, slow DNS means slow-loading websites. Therefore, to provide fast and reliable DNS services requires many geographically distributed and redundant DNS servers.

DNS Security Issues

I won't go into all the details about potential security vulnerabilities or exploits that are possible with DNS. You can read about those at Wikipedia - Domain Name Security Issues. In the recent GoDaddy incident, it was thought that they fell victim to a DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attack. The basic way this works is when many thousands of "zombie" computers simultaneously attack a system by each hammering the server(s) with requests. Apparently, the problem was caused by "internal network issues".

It takes a robust DNS architecture to sustain such attacks while simultaneously continuing to service DNS requests for legitimate users.

How Can I Tell If My Website's DNS Service Is Reliable?

Unfortunately, it's not that easy, but there are a few tools and clues:

Free or Paid DNS - Are you actually paying for DNS Services separately from your hosting service? If it's "free" or bundled with your "budget" hosting plan, don't expect to get much reliability from your DNS. If you're paying for DNS separately, chances are they at least have some budget to apply to shore up their DNS.

Number of Domain Servers -  How many Domain Servers are associated with your domain? Using any WHOIS tool (e.g. lookup your domain and scroll down to where it shows "Domain servers in listed order:". How many do you have listed there? Two? Not so good. Six? That's pretty good!

DNS Server Performance - Using Gibson Research Corporation's Domain Name Speed Benchmark utility, you can compare the performance of the DNS servers listed for your domains against a list of others that are included with the tool.

DNS Service Providers

If you’re worried about the reliability of your domain's DNS, then do some research on specifically DNS Service Providers. Your DNS service does NOT have to be the same as your website hosting provider.

Though I've only used DNS services from a few different providers, my current choice is DNSMadeEasy. They have performed flawlessly for me for years, they have a friendly interface, instant DNS changes and many features that other DNS providers don't have. You can learn more about them by clicking my affiliate link below:

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