In 2020, it’s more important than ever to have speedy, reliable internet on all of your devices. Unfortunately, plenty of internet service providers don’t allow you to upgrade your internet speed without jumping through some major hoops. Even if you manage to raise your speeds, you’ll often find yourself paying an arm and a leg for what should be considered standard internet speeds. While many countries around the world supply customers with gigabit internet speeds, plenty of urban, suburban, and rural communities in North America are stuck with sub-10 megabit download connections.
If you’re looking to turbocharge your internet use throughout 2020 and beyond, one of the best ways to speed up your internet without relying on your ISP is by changing your DNS server. By modifying your DNS, or Domain Name System, servers, you can make sure your internet connection is set to be the fastest in the neighborhood. Your DNS server may be at fault for causing slow internet speeds and terrible response time when attempting to load a web page, so it’s important to make sure you’re using the best system available in order to achieve the fastest speeds on the web today. For a quick explainer on DNS servers, along with our top picks for the best free DNS options available on the web today, read on. We’ll make sure your browsing is at its fastest everyday throughout the next decade.
DNS Servers Explained
Before we dive into what you should look for in the best free DNS server, it’s important to know what they’re used for and what is and isn’t a quality free DNS server. After all, you don’t want to go out of your way to upgrade your DNS server when it isn’t going to help improve your speeds, and if you don’t know what to look for, you’ll be stuck with a terrible—or even unsafe—server tracking your information. If you’re unfamiliar with a DNS server, it refers to the Domain Name Service that essentially powers the internet, working like a phone book for the entirety of public web pages, allowing you to go from on location on the web to another when typing in an address. Your DNS server links an IP address with a domain name, so that instead of typing in a basic server address, which consists of a series of two or three digit numbers in a row, you can simply type in a web address like “techjunkie.com” in order to arrive in the proper location in your browser.
Of course, when translating the information from written word over to a standard IP address that your computer and your browser can understand, a slow DNS server can cause your browser to take additional seconds to load the information. If you’ve ever noticed a small message in your browser alerting you to the fact that your page is waiting for the server to load your information, that means your DNS server is having difficulty connecting to the information it needs to translate the page into a form that your browser can read. Most ISPs use their own DNS servers to load your information, but the quality and speed of these can vary greatly when it comes to loading your information. The good news, of course, is that there are a ton of public DNS servers not owned by your ISP, but rather, by other giant entities like Google, OpenDNS, DNSWatch, and other companies and organizations trying to make sure that your internet speed is as fast as possible.
There are three main qualities which influence how fast a DNS server is during everyday use:
- The speed and location of the server itself. This can vary by your geographic distance to and from the server, as the farther data has to travel to go to and from a server, the slower it will be to load on your phone, tablet, or computer.
- The business and reliability of your DNS server. If you think of the internet like a highway system—it’s called the information highway for a reason—then you can imagine that a server can get bogged down with traffic during the busiest times of the day. Your server is like a business, and during “rush hour” when everyone is attempting to get to and from that “business,” you’ll find that retrieving data from that server is overall slower than it otherwise would be. This is a problem with every DNS server, and it doesn’t end with the DNS server provided by your ISP. The major problem comes when you find your connection is always under load, always in a hypothetical “rush hour.” Basically, your DNS server shouldn’t be Los Angeles—and if it is, it’s time you move.
- Whether your domain has been cached by the server or not. Basically, if the site you’re trying to visit is constantly visited by other users, there’s a good chance that the site loads faster than an average website. That said, if your favorite websites haven’t been cached by your server, then you may run into trouble when trying to load those web pages frequently.
The speed of your DNS server, along with the distance and how clustered the server is at any given moment, influences how quickly it can find the matching IP address for your web address. As with any server, a busy DNS server will take far longer to process your request, creating a feeling of unreliability and frustration when browsing the web daily. That’s why using a publicly available DNS server can improve your surfing experience.
How public DNS improves your surfing experience
When you plug your modem and router into your home internet connection, your device automatically connects to a default DNS server in order to ensure you can browse the internet as you see fit. Of course, since you’re plugging your device into your ISP’s internet connection, your router chooses the DNS server offered by your ISP, which can often be unreliable. Using a public DNS server doesn’t quite hide your internet activity from your ISP—you’ll need to use a VPN  for that—but it can make your browsing experience a little more enjoyable when using the web.
Unlike private DNS servers owned by your ISP, public DNS servers are purpose-built to perform a single job: matching domain names with IP addresses, in order to return your information from the web as fast as possible. Companies like Google are capable of hosting large server farms dedicated to offering nothing but DNS services. Other public DNS organizations, like OpenDNS and SmartViper, are capable of holding similar setups on their own server farms, all designed to give you the fastest possible surfing experience daily.
And of course, using public DNS also increases your own security when browsing. DNS servers are susceptible to attacks like denial of service (or DDOS) and cache poisoning, making it possible for your internet service to be brought down with just a few attacks on your server from rogue forces around the world. Public DNS servers, meanwhile, while also being susceptible to the same types of attacks, can often use filters and other blocks to avoid these assaults on their servers, offering the user another protection while online.
This is a significant benefit when you consider the increased sophistication and power of such attacks, and it makes using publicly available DNS servers a no-brainer over the servers supplied by your ISP. Finally, if you live somewhere with online internet monitoring (which takes place in much of the world, to a certain extent), using a public DNS server can, in some cases, circumvent aspects of those privacy concerns. Certain countries control DNS servers in order to restrict what citizens can see online. Changing DNS servers may allow you to avoid such restrictions, though since your ISP may still be able to see the web address you visited, it may not allow you to get away with it without any problems.
So, with that explainer out of the way, let’s take a look at what public DNS servers you should and shouldn’t use. These are our favorite public options on the web today, known for supplying impressive speeds and solid reliability. Changing your DNS server depends on you logging into your router or modem settings, finding the DNS server entry field, and editing the IPv4 addresses in order to access the newer options. It’s a fairly simple procedure, so you’ll definitely want to look into changing our your DNS server with one of the options listed below. This is our top five list for the best public DNS servers on the web today, to make your browsing speed increase for the rest of this year and well into next.