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Linux tips and tweaks

Benchmark DNS servers, then use the best for a faster internet

Every computer on the internet is given a unique IP address that looks something like 132.213.56.39. It's how one computer communicates with another and you can think of it as being like a telephone number. Computers are great at remembering and manipualting numbers, but we aren't and it is easier to remember a name like www.google.com than its IP address. So when you enter a URL like www.google.com, the computer asks a DNS server what the IP address is. A DNS server is like a telephone book and it accepts a name and returns the conrresponding number. The faster it can do this, the faster a web browser can display web pages.

We saw how to change the DNS server the computer uses in a previous tip. This tip shows how to benchmark different DNS servers to see which is the fastest. Once you know which is the best, you can permanently switch to it and enjoy a faster internet.

Here are three DNS servers...

DNS server

Primary DNS Secondary DNS
Google Public DNS 8.8.8.8 8.8.4.4
OpenDNS 208.67.222.222 208.67.220.220
ClearCloud 74.118.212.1 74.118.212.2

If you don't change the DNS server you'll use your ISPs by default, so benchmark that first. Then following this tip, change to each of the DNS servers above and benchmark them.

So how do you benchmark them? It's actually quite easy and it uses the dig command. Open a Terminal window and type dig www.yahoo.com and the DNS server will be queried about the URL. You'll see several bits of information displayed and near the end is the total time taken for the query in milliseconds (ms). This is your benchmark result and it shows how fast the DNS server can respond to requests. The shorter the length of time the faster it is.

The results may vary depending on where you are in the world, but I found OpenDNS to be the fastest. You should repeat the test several times with the same URL and with different ones. Use the same set of URLs with each DNS server though.

Once you know the fastest server, you can switch to it permanently.

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