Googles DNS failure; what did it mean?

By now, most of the world is aware that Google’s DNS went down on Tuesday. You may even remember in October 2016 when the DNS provider Dyn took a tumble, and carried Twitter, Amazon and many others down with it.

What is DNS, and why does it matter so much?

DNS stands for Domain Name System and it controls your domain name’s website and email settings. So, when someone types in your URL aka your domain name, it’s the DNS settings that control redirecting that information to the right server which has your website on it. In other words DNS changes what we perceive as a web address (i.e. www.example.com) to an address a machine can understand, an IP address ( i.e 192.105.282.4) , and this IP address is used to pinpoint your server.

Google themselves explain DNS like the ‘internet’s phone book’, because when you type in a website URL and hit enter – you send a message asking your computer to lookup the aforementioned website. Simply put, if you were using Google’s DNS and their DNS services weren’t working, then your URL pointed to nowhere.

Normally a DNS lookup is extremely fast, it is essentially the time it takes you to type in a URL and the website to load. Once the website has loaded and the ‘lookup’ is done, the DNS server is free to deal with another request.
The more complex a website is the more DNS lookups your computer will perform, you may need to perform multiple DNS lookups to extract a single page. You may not be aware, but Internet users perform hundreds of DNS lookups a day, and these tend to slow down web browsing. The web is ever expanding; thus, the data demands can strain the existing DNS infrastructure.

What went wrong?

Services such as Google offer DNS services to a huge number of sites for free, they don’t necessarily have any other link to the site, they just provide DNS.

Now here’s the crucial part: if DNS fails, the site is only reachable via an IP address. So, either you have DNS or you have to remember every IP address for every website you need to visit, and let’s face it, www.example.com is a lot easier to remember than 192.105.282.4

Of course, if you had the foresight to setup your secondary or backup DNS with a different provider this wouldn’t have been an issue. Most business setup both their primary and secondary DNS with the same company, which is risky but very common course of action.

Our advice? Split your primary and secondary DNS over two providers. It will help keep your site from being unreachable. Of course, nothing is fool proof. All DNS servers essentially run from seven highly protected keys looked after by crypto officers who are part of an organisation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. This institution is responsible for assigning numerical internet addresses to the top level domains (such as .com) which then starts the process for all DNS around the web to work. If something went wrong at this level, well frankly it would be chaos, but thankfully, that’s unlikely to happen.

How to setup your DNS?

Configuring your DNS settings will vary based on your operating system and the device you are using. To change the settings, you should be able to adjust the DNS settings from wherever you adjust network settings. There are hundreds of step-by-step guides on the internet that can help you through this.

TL;DR: DNS is essentially a translator of human to computer language that helps you navigate the web. We’ve also learnt you shouldn’t put all your eggs in the same metaphorical DNS basket, split your primary and secondary DNS between two companies to ensure your website doesn’t go down easily.

2018-08-17T16:04:32+00:00

About the Author:

Olivia Lindsey, Marketing & Event Executive

One Comment

  1. Mark 26th April 2018 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I program gradwells DNS into my client handsets (193.111.200.91 & 191) as I was advised to when I started reselling your services. I still had clients affected by this issue. I use Google exclusively at a few sites for LAN DNS (sorted now ) and they didn’t have any issues at all

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