Most DNS services advertise fast speeds and how they can help speed up your web browsing. However, the DNS speeds you experience aren't just based upon how fast the DNS servers are; the speeds are also influenced by how far the servers are from your location.
To see which DNS servers are truly the fastest, consider running some speed tests. You might find that the "fast" DNS service you're using is actually not so speedy after all. Today we'll discuss two different DNS benchmarking tools you can use to check the performance of your current server and others as well.
NameBench is a great free, open-source DNS benchmarking utility available for Windows, Mac OS X and UNIX.
By default, NameBench tests your current DNS servers while also letting you enter specific addresses of other servers. Additionally, you can enable an option to include some of the most popular public DNS servers, such as Google, OpenDNS and UltraDNS. Another option will test the fastest regional DNS servers in your area. Furthermore, you can have NameBench include censorship checks to test those that provide filtering services.
After running NameBench, the results will show you the fastest DNS server available for your particular computer, based upon the exact web sites you visit using the browser cache of your choice, or if you prefer, NameBench can check using the top 2,000 websites listed by Alexa. In the end, it will provide a prioritized list of three server addresses it recommends.
GRC's DNS Benchmark
DNS Benchmark is a free Windows program from GRC that can test the performance of local and remote DNS servers. While it is not directly available for Mac OS X or Linux, it is compatible with Wine.
When you open the DNS Benchmark program, you can read about what DNS is and how the tool can help on the Introduction tab. Then on the Nameservers tab you can see the list of servers that will be tested, along with their IP address and hostname. On the Ownersub-tab you can see the server IPs along with the company's name.
On the Status sub-tab you can see which servers are responding. On the Response Time sub-tab you'll see a performance bar chart summarizing each DNS server's performance after testing is complete.
By default, DNS Benchmark tests your current DNS server and a few other popular ones, such as Google, OpenDNS and UltraDNS. You can also enter specific addresses of other servers, or use DNS Benchmark's feature for finding the top fastest 50. After starting the benchmark testing, you can see real-time results on the Tabular Data sub-tab. Then when complete, the final results will be shown along with personalized recommendations.
Unlike NameBench, DNS Benchmark won't test the DNS speeds by resolving the domains you've already visited using your browser cache. GRC's tool instead checks speeds by resolving the domains from the top 50 websites, but that list is customizable.
Though a DNS service may advertise faster browsing if you utilize their nameservers rather than the default ones provided by your ISP, actual speeds can significantly vary depending upon your location and the sites you visit. NameBench and DNS Benchmark are two helpful tools you can use to determine the DNS server that will work best for you.
But if you use a certain service for a particular reason — if it provides content filtering or ad blocking, for example — you may not have much of a choice.
Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer -- keep up with his writings on Facebook. He's also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service, and On Spot Techs, an on-site computer services company.