DNS, short for Domain Name System, is one of the most common yet misunderstood components of the web landscape. To put it simply, DNS helps direct traffic on the Internet by connecting domain names with actual web servers. Essentially, it takes a human-friendly request – a domain name like kinsta.com – and translates it into a computer-friendly server IP address – like 126.96.36.199.
One big reason for choosing premium DNS is speed and reliability. Looking up DNS records and directing traffic takes time, even if it’s just a matter of milliseconds.
Typically, the free DNS that you’ll get from your domain name registrar is comparatively slow, whereas premium DNS often offers better performance. For example, in our tests, we found the free NameCheap DNS to be 33% slower than Amazon Route 53 premium DNS. Additionally, premium DNS can offer better security and availability, especially when you’re under a DDoS attack.
For a good middle-ground between the free DNS provided by your domain registrar and premium DNS, Cloudflare DNS is a free service that still offers many of the benefits of premium DNS. And they are blazing fast with under 20 ms average response times around the globe (as seen below).
However, one caveat with Cloudflare is that it also has more downtime than a lot of other providers. If you’re primarily serving visitors in the United States, DNS Made Easy is another great premium DNS provider you might want to check out. They have a reputation for providing some of the best DNS uptime over the past decade.
In the last 30 days, DNSPerf shows the following uptime from these providers:
- DNS Made Easy: 99.99% which equals 4m 23.0s monthly downtime.
- Amazon Route 53: 99.88% which equals 52m 35.7s monthly downtime.
- Cloudflare: 99.85% which equals 1h 5m 44.6s monthly downtime.
Does downtime matter that much with DNS providers? The answer to this is really yes and no. DNS is typically cached with ISPs using the time to live value (TTL) on the DNS record. Therefore if a DNS provider goes down for 10 minutes, you’re most likely not going to notice anything. Downtime does matter though if the provider consistently has longer and frequent outages, or if your ISP and DNS records both are using really low TTL values