I use OpenDNS, and you should too!
A few months ago I switched my home network to using OpenDNS for domain name lookups. Prior to that I had typically ran my own DNS server on my home LAN. This was a near requirement for me because I hosted some of my sites at my house and I needed to resolve them to private addresses when on the home LAN, blah. It was annoying. I no longer do that, and no longer need to run my own DNS, and good riddance. Note, if you don’t know what DNS is, or what name resolution is, you can probably stop reading now. ;-) If you are interested to learn more the DNS page on Wikipedia will get you started. Read it and then proceed. DNS is to the Internet like legs** shoes are to walking.**
I relied for a bit on Comcast’s DNS servers and they were fine but they didn’t give me any added value. I poked around and found OpenDNS and it looked really promising. I posted on Twitter about it and found a handful of friends of mine that are technical rockstars and had been happily using it for a long time. I guess I was slow to the party.
Anyway, after using OpenDNS for a while now I strongly endorse it. I would go so far as to suggest that anyone with the option of flipping DNS providers should switch to it. Some reasons.
When you start using OpenDNS you create an account and you can manage how DNS requests should be handled. OpenDNS has a whole set of content filtering options and everyone should ask it to filter Phishing sites. Phishing sites have gotten incredibly good, and I love the fact that OpenDNS will simply not allow a computer on my network to go to a site marked as a phishing site. This alone is worth the switch.
The options are numerous for filtering. You can be as strict or open as you like. I think this is a great place to implement this sort of policy on a home network. No software to maintain, it just works and keeps working. This is how parental controls and basic Internet safety should be done.
OpenDNS makes it really easy to get information on DNS requests. You can get a cool graph like this.
Okay, that is cool because it is a graph and all graphs are cool. But it is also useful. Let’s say that you got a virus or spambot on one of your computers. You would possibly notice a large spike in the number of DNS requests being issued. Sudden and large changes in that graph indicate something unusual is going on somewhere.
To me this is enough to justify the switch to a wonderful free service. There are some other things that it does that may be cool. It allows you to great shortcuts, so in my house if you type “http://thing” into a browser it will turn that into “http://thingelstad.com/” or “http://goog” into “http://www.google.com/”. Firefox can do that too, but having it at the DNS level is nifty since it works everywhere (iPhone, Wii).
It’s free, you just create an account and change your router to start using the OpenDNS servers!