What is DNS?
DNS, which stands for domain name system, is an Internet service that translates domains names into IP addresses.This query is performed by a Domain Name Server (DNS server) or servers nearby that have been assigned responsibility for that hostname. You can think of a DNS server as a phone book for the internet. A DNS server maintains a directory of domain names and translates them to IPs.
Why Reliable DNS Hosting is Important
Choosing a reliable DNS hosting provider is critical because it can affect everything from the redundancy of your website, speed, and even security.
If you are running a business, you should never have one single point of failure. DNS hosting providers do allow you to configure secondary nameservers, but then you are assuming that all of their services won’t be affected. It is like storing a backup of your computer files on an external hard drive in your house. There could be a fire and all of the sudden you have lost both your computer and your files. Just as it is important to store backups offsite, it can also be beneficial to use multiple DNS, providers.
A common approach is to configure one of the DNS providers as primary and the other as secondary, slaved to the primary provider. This means that your zones records are synchronized from the primary to the secondary.
ISPs do cache DNS however which means if your first provider goes down it will still try to query the first DNS server for a period of time before querying for the second one. A quick way to fix this is simply by temporarily changing the TTL (time to live) setting for the DNS record, and route your traffic to the second DNS server until the outage is fixed.
In general practice, it is better to keep a longer TTL for DNS records because this means your ISP will have the DNS cached, and users might not even notice if your DNS provider goes down for a short period of time. For example, if your TTL record is set to a week on Monday, and your DNS provider is down from Monday night through Thursday, your users will not see any downtime due to your ISP caching the DNS.
Speed also plays a role with DNS. Using a fast DNS hosting provider ensures there is less latency between the DNS lookup and TTFB. You can test the DNS lookup time and TTFB with a website speed test tool.
Just like with content delivery networks, DNS hosting providers also have multiple POPs. In general, the more locations, the better as this means there will more likely be a DNS server closer to the visitor, decreasing the lookup time. But remember, ISPs also cache the DNS so by setting a longer TTL it means fewer queries to your DNS servers.
According to Kaspersky in Q1 2015, 23,095 DDoS attacks were reported, targeting web resources in 76 countries. DDoS, or Distributed Denial-of-Service, is a type of DOS attack in which it attempts to make a machine or network resource unavailable. DDoS attacks usually involve more than one–and often thousands–of unique IP addresses and often spoof DNS queries.
Here is a list of the top 10 free DNS hosting providers, listed in no particular order.
Hurricane Electric Internet Services provide a 100% free DNS hosting service with strong connectivity all over the world. Their network is made up of over 60 POPs and supports IPv6 everywhere. If you are looking for a solid DNS provider, we recommend giving this one a try.
NS1 is a data driven DNS provider with speeds faster than many other top-tier providers. You can customize your DNS with their powerful filters, use real-time data from your infrastructure for automatic traffic management, and get next-level performance and reliability. They even provide a developer-friendly REST API. Get 500k queries/month, 50 records, 1 Filter Chain, and 2 monitoring jobs for free.
Read about how to use NS1 as a secondary DNS provider.
CloudFlare is probably one the largest free DNS hosting providers. But they are also technically a managed DNS host which means you don’t have as much control. However, they do provide you with additional security features such as rate limiting, filtering, and blocking. Cloudflare’s speeds are also faster than most premium DNS providers.
Rackspace offers free DNS hosting and management for current customers. They feature automated migrations, IP Anycast routing, load balancing, and flexible access via their cloud control panel and RESTful API.
FreeDNS offers Free DNS, Dynamic DNS hosting, static DNS hosting, as well as domain hosting. They have been in operation since 2004 and have a long history of providing solid free DNS hosting. Their entire network is now routinely processing over 7 billion DNS requests per month.
The free plan from ClouDNS offers 4 DNS servers, 3 zones, Dynamic DNS, round robin, native IPv6 support, and has no limits or restrictions on the records or requests. They also recently introduced premium plans with DDoS protected servers and GeoDNS.
GeoScaling offers FREE (up to 1 Million DNS Requests per month) managed DNS services with unique features. Redirect your users by Country, AS number, uptime, server load and custom rules, at the DNS level. Low TTL and support for most types of records including SRV. Dynamic DNS support and the ability to upload, paste and import BIND zone files.
Namecheap is probably best known for their domain registration services, but they also offer free DNS hosting featuring DynamicDNS. Namecheap’s FreeDNS can work great as a backup to your primary DNS service.
1984 is a web hosting company that also offers a FreeDNS service, available through their easy-to-use web interface. Apart from normal DNS records they also allow web redirects.
BuddyNS is a free secondary DNS service and is probably one of the easiest services to use. They feature automatic synchronization with master within 10 minutes, or immediately with SyncNOW! and NOTIFY. BuddyNS boasts a 100% uptime since inception with 8 POPs around the world. They even have Cpanel/WHM integration.
Dynu is a free DNS (dynamic) service provider that has been operating since 1997. They offer a forever free plan in which you can have 4 domains, 4 subdomains, 4 MX records, 4 custom DNS records, 4 web redirects, as well as offline settings. They also include the following records: A, AAAA, CNAME, PTR, TXT, SPF, SRV, HINFO.