OpenDNS protects your network and speeds up your online work

Businesses and users have yet another tool to protect themselves from attacks, while accessing the Web more easily

Last week I spent some time reviewing options for both home and small-business Web filtering, activity logging, and parental controls. The options included software and reasonably priced routers (such as the iBoss) and appliances (such as Tangent's WebHawk) with onboard content filtering.

One term that kept coming up in my research was OpenDNS, and initially it looked just another filtering solution. But further investigation shows it has some interesting side effects, one of which is speeding up the resolution of website URLs into IP addresses for a faster surfing experience if you tend to have slow DNS resolution.

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Faster Web browsing through OpenDNS
Just to take a step back for those readers who aren't already DNS experts, the process essentially works in much the same way that you obtain a phone number for a person you know. You can use a phone book or call a service and provide the name of the person (along with his or her address, perhaps) and you receive the number in return. With Web surfing, a DNS root server takes your URL for the website you want to visit and locates the IP address of the servers hosting that website. The browser then connects to that IP address.

Often when you connect up to your ISP, it automatically provides the DNS settings. Within a network, your router's DNS settings are configured through DHCP services or manually by an administrator.

This default configuration usually does the trick. But if the DNS server is slow in responding to requests, your surfing speed will suffer. In that case, you could point your DNS settings (or your router's DNS settings) to OpenDNS. It doesn't cost a thing and doesn't require any additional software be installed. All you have to do is alter your network connection or router settings to use the following nameservers: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.222.220.

So how does this speed up my surfing? While your ISP DNS servers may be unreliable (depending on who you use), Open DNS stores the IP addresses of millions of sites in its cache. So it can often return the results faster than the root DNS servers can.

Blocking phishing attacks and more via OpenDNS
At the same time, OpenDNS is a very helpful tool in blocking phishing sites from coming up; it uses Phishtank, a community block site also relied on by Yahoo. It also blocks a variety of different malware, hacker-oriented sites. And it can block inappropriate content by allowing you to configure it to filter by category or block by name. For those businesses that are sick and tired of their people playing around on Facebook all day long, this tool can give them an easy way to block access.

OpenDNS can also help with typos you might type while entering a website address. It automatically makes the correction for common typos. You can also create abbreviated commands to use as shortcuts for websites you go to with really long names. For example, rather than typing http://www.infoworld.com/blogs/j-peter-bruzzese, you can create a shortcut like jpb to bring you right to my blog.

You may be wondering how OpenDNS make its money if the service is free. Apparently, the service charges for the ads displayed when a user types in an incorrect email address.

This article, "OpenDNS protects your network and speeds up your online work," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows and information security at InfoWorld.com.

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