What is DNS?

N ot everyone knows what DNS stands for or why it’s an important aspect of their website. DNS stands for Domain Name System.

DNS, is an Internet service that translates domains names into IP addresses. For example, when you visit FastWeb.Host it must look up the corresponding IP address to that hostname behind the scenes. This query is performed by a Domain Name Server (DNS server) or servers nearby that have been assigned responsibility for that hostname. You can think of a DNS server as a phone book for the internet. A DNS server maintains a directory of domain names and translates them to IPs.

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

A DNS server is like a phone book for the internet

Why Reliable DNS Hosting is Important

With the rise of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks using a high-quality DNS hosting provider is very important to the redundancy, speed and even security of your website. There is nothing worse for visitors than your website being inaccessible. Therefore you need to choose a reliable DNS hosting provider.

Redundancy

If you are running a business, you should never have one single point of failure. Although DNS hosting providers allow you to configure secondary nameservers, you are then assuming that all of their services won’t be affected, ever. It is like storing a backup of your computer files on an external hard drive in your house. There could be a fire and all of the sudden you have lost both your computer and external hard drive, so all your files are now gone. Just as it is important to store backups offsite, it can also be beneficial to use multiple DNS providers.

A common approach is to configure one of the DNS providers as primary and the other as secondary, slaved to the primary provider. This means that your Zones records are synchronized from the primary to the secondary. For example, if a lookup fails and times out to your first DNS server it queries the next DNS server until the correct IP address is returned, or it is unable to resolve as seen in the infamous “This webpage is not available” error below.

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

Keep in mind that ISPs do cache DNS, which means if your first provider goes down it will still try to query the first DNS server for a period of time before querying for the second one. A quick way to fix this is simply by temporarily changing the TTL (time to live) setting for the DNS record, and route your traffic to the second DNS server until the outage is fixed.

In general practice, it is better to keep a longer TTL for DNS records because this means your ISP will have the DNS cached, and users might not even notice if your DNS provider goes down for a short period of time. For example, if your TTL record is set to a week on Monday, and your DNS provider is down from Monday night through Thursday, your users will not see any downtime due to your ISP caching the DNS.

Speed

Speed also plays a role with DNS. Using a fast DNS hosting provider ensures there is less latency between the DNS lookup and TTFB. You can test the DNS lookup time and TTFB with a website speed test tool.

Just like with content delivery networks, DNS hosting providers also have multiple POPs. In general, the more locations, the better as this means there will more likely be a DNS server closer to the visitor, decreasing the lookup time. But remember, ISPs also cache the DNS so by setting a longer TTL it means fewer queries to your DNS servers.

Security

According to a recent Akamai report DDoS attacks are getting more and more sophisticated, with advanced bots leading the way. Distributed Denial-of-Service, is a type of DOS attack in which it attempts to make a machine or network resource unavailable. DDoS attacks usually involve more than one-and often thousands-of unique IP addresses and often spoof DNS queries.

This is where having multiple DNS providers is vital. Read about what the Canopy.co team learned when a DDoS attack took out their DNS provider.

The Domain Name Server (DNS) is the Achilles heel of the Web. The important thing is that it’s managed responsibly.

Tim Berners-Lee

Some free DNS hosting providers are equipped with features such as firewall policies, rate limiting, filtering, and blocking that can help mitigate and prevent DDoS attacks. And of course having multiple DNS providers means that if one is taken down from a DDos attack you can always resort to your secondary.

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

Here is a list of the top 10 free DNS hosting providers.

1. CloudFlare

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

CloudFlare powers more than 38% of the managed DNS domains on the web. And it also possesses one of the world’s biggest authoritative DNS networks.

Capable of delivering query results in few milliseconds, the company claims to be the fastest managed DNS provider now. They serve 86 billion queries in a day! Their servers can also make DNS updates live in just a few seconds!

CloudFlare is also one of the biggest free DNS hosting services available now!

Their free DNS service can offer much faster performance than its premium counterparts.

However, being a managed DNS host, you may not have as much control as other free DNS hosting providers. But they provide added security to your website thanks to their intuitive blocking, filtering, and rate limiting features.

2. Rackspace

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

Rackspace is free but only to its existing customers! Their current customers can use their DNS hosting and management at no cost. Even though with just 5 or 6 PoPs (Point-of-Presence), they have an impressive track record of uptimes.

Some of their main features include IP Anycast routing, automated migrations, flexible access, and load balancing. You can setup these features easily through their RESTful API and cloud control panel. They also have an easy-to-use interface.

Rackspace allows you to have total control of your DNS. You can do a variety of tasks like adding, modifying, removing domains, records and so on thanks to their API and Cloud Control Panel.

The fact that it’s only available their active customers is a downside to this service.

3. NS1

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

NS1 offer a solid and free DNS hosting service. In terms of speed, they outperform many of the top players in the industry. NS1 offers potent Filter Chain routing engine designed to easily manage highly critical and demanding applications on the web.

This powerful routing engine can also help you customize your DNS. But most importantly, this routing mechanism takes smart routing choices in real-time to make your applications faster and reliable.

NS1 also provides automatic traffic management by leveraging your infrastructure and real-time network data to ensure a high level of reliability and performance. If you want to tweak some code, no worries, their RESTful API is very user-friendly for programmers.

Their free tier offers 500k queries per month, 1 Filter Chain, 2 free monitoring jobs, 50 records and more.

4. Hurricane Electric Internet Services

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

Hurricane Electric Internet Services provide a 100% free DNS hosting service with strong connectivity all over the world. They have a solid network of DNS servers with more than 130 PoPs (Point-of-Presence) distributed across North America, Europe, and Asia and support IPv6 everywhere.

The company boasts more than 19000 BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) with more than 6000 varied networks. This signifies lower load time for your website and an overall better user experience.

5. ClouDNS

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

The free DNS hosting plan from ClouDNS is a service that you can try out with confidence. With servers spread out in North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe, CloudDNS employs a Round Robin (RR) architecture in their DNS network platform.

With their free tier you can add 3 domains with 4 DNS servers, 3 DNS zones, 3 Mail forwards, Dynamic DNS, support for native IPv6, round robin, and unlimited records or requests. However, they have reserved GeoDNS and DDoS protected DNS hosting to their premium members.

6. Free DNS

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

Processing more than 7 Billion monthly DNS requests, FreeDNS network has been providing great quality free DNS hosting since 2004. They offer absolutely free DNS, Static DNS, as well as Dynamic DNS services.

It may stun you beyond imagination but they really offer unlimited domains/account. With a long history of providing free DNS hosting services, FreeDNS is quick and easy to setup, exceptionally reliable, and fast. Most importantly, every update is made live on the internet – instantly!

7. GeoScaling

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

A smaller company that handles around 1 million DNS requests per month, GeoScaling offers a bunch of unique features in its managed DNS services. They have a low TTL (Time-To-Live), which means updated records are made live on the internet in less than 5 minutes.

GeoScaling’s DNS service supports a variety of normal record types including the Service Record (SRV). And they also offer support for Dynamic DNS, and allows you to import, upload, and paste BIND zone files.

If you happen to reside in France, Romania or Texas, you can avail their assured redundancy and scalability benefits. With an easy-to-use interface, you can add and update DNS records without reloading the web page. Any change is propagated to the nameservers instantaneously.

8. NameCheap

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

Namecheap is a famous domain registrar. But they do more than just domain registrations of course. One of the things they offer for free, is DNS hosting services with Dynamic DNS.

Namecheap has geographically dispersed name-servers that can boost your site’s performance and make it load faster. They also support almost every record type including SRV. They also have powerful and intuitive management console and offers 24/7 technical support to their customers. But you need to be a customer.

9. 1984

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

1984 is definitely one of those free DNS hosting providers that you should give it a shot. Their service also supports almost all normal record types including SRV and TLSA. Other features included in their free DNS service are Web Redirects, Dynamic DNS, and Nameserver on Anycast network.

In order to use 1984’s free DNS service, all you need to do is register a user on their home page. Their FreeDNS service offers total control over every domain you register with them. You can host your site anywhere and avail their DNS service for FREE!

10. BuddyNS

10 Best Free DNS Hosting Providers for 2019

If you are looking only for a free secondary DNS service with an easy-to-use interface, then BuddyNS is just right for you! BuddyNS claims to be capable of updating your DNS data faster than any other DNS service providers. This speed is 10 to 100 times faster than the industry average! Their free tier gives you up to 300k queries per account.

With 8 geographically distributed PoPs, their service automatically syncs with the master DNS service in just a short period of 10 minutes. It can even sync it instantaneously using SyncNOW or NOTIFY feature. With a solid DNS infrastructure across the globe, BuddyNS can process your visitor queries much faster – irrespective of your visitors’ geographic location.

BuddyNS has also maintained a 100% uptime since its beginning. And the best part is that they also allow you to integrate CPanel/WHM. With a secure and perpetually available network infrastructure, BuddyNS servers keep your domains ever accessible to users even your primary DNS goes down.

With so many options out there it’s normal to ask yourself

Who is the best free DNS hosting provider for 2019

We personally use and recommend CloudFlare since it’s among the fastest but they have so many other features that makes them really stand out. They are 100% free for unlimited domains, they have by far the biggest network of PoPs so we have a preference in their service overall.

Let’s look at the numbers

Who offers the best free DNS? Who has the least DNS lookup speed? Is free DNS hosting as good as paid DNS hosting? As you can see below a majority of the free DNS providers we mentioned above are competing neck and neck with the speeds of premium providers.

2019 DNS Speed Comparison Report from Solve DNS

2019 DNS Speed Comparison Report from Solve DNS (both Free and Paid Services)

As you can see in the report NS1 really dominates the market in terms of speed with CloudFlare actually being 2nd from our list in terms of speed. Everything less than 10 milliseconds is great for DNS lookups especially for free ones!

If you look at last year reports or the year before that, you’ll notice that NS1 wasn’t always the fastest, that means they are committed in their service and continuously improve and invest in their platform. This brought them at the top of the list for now.

Final Notes

The availability of free DNS hosting services and providers is a great way to keep your costs low, something that will be very appealing in small – medium businesses who are on a tight budget.

Basically with CloudFlare (and others) offering so much even on their completely free plan means that if you ever have a need for a paid service, your company will be so big that you won’t even notice the cost… 😉