MasseyMedia, Inc

The Day the Internet Went Down

Most people have never heard of a NS or Name Server – and for good reason. The internet is designed to be easily used by humans. It is built to remove the technology layer from between information and user experience. You see, computers just aren’t as smart as we give them credit for. Computers cannot understand what google.com or masseymedia.com means. They rely on a numerical system of identification called an IP address. Each website, smart phone, computer, laptop, and other internet connected device has an IP address.

Now, as humans, we simply cannot remember the IP addresses of every website and device we use on a daily basis. Enter the Name Server. The Domain Name Server is like a huge telephone book that lists the IP address of each website and device on the internet. So, to visit google.com, your computer browser asks your Internet Service Provider for the IP address. Since most ISPs don’t cache their DNS lookups, they have to send the request on to an “authoritative” name server for that domain. The authoritative server will return the IP address to your ISP, and in turn, the ISP will in turn return the IP address for that site to you browser. Your computer then requests the web page, graphics, scripts, etc. by IP address.

GoDaddy has sold the most domain names and offers a free name server service. When their name servers went offline, there was no “authoritative” answer available and the requests just failed.

So, why am I writing about this? For two reasons: First, for businesses with website and other internet connected assets, it is essential that you plan for issues such as these and prepare accordingly. Utilizing secondary name servers, hosted in separate data centers, allowed our clients to avoid this issue.

Secondly, this is a perfect time to introduce everyone to a service we recommend to all clients and friends. It is called OpenDNS. This is a free for personal use service. They also have relatively inexpensive business plans. Functionally, OpenDNS is used to bypass the name servers of your local ISP allowing you access to geographically distributed network of DNS servers to help speed up name look ups and to ensure redundancy. OpenDNS also caches name server lookups in case a name server is down.

In addition, OpenDNS provides various levels of protection at the DNS level. So, if OpenDNS knows that the site you are about to visit contains a horrible virus, it can intervene and redirect you to a safe page with an explanation. Parents and business owners can also use built-in tools to limit access to websites that contain content such as pornography, gambling, social media, and many other categories. Not only does this help parents manage the sites their kids see, but it also helps businesses keep content that is offensive from their employees that might result in legal action.

Additional tools such as analytics let you see which sites your family or business are visiting and will also list potential malware and virus threats. The system can even alert you when a machine on your network is acting suspiciously and trying to access known malware servers and services.

Utilizing a third-party service such as this can allow a small business to have access to the same features and tools enterprises have had for years. They are able to utilize an additional layer of security and redundancy for a very small cost. And, for concerned parents, we are able to monitor the internet usage from our homes and ensure that our children are not able to access content we feel is harmful. For more information on OpenDNS, visit http://www.opendns.com.