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Ben Ball
Posted by
Ben Ball on
March 28, 2023

Five signs you need a premium DNS service

Every business will outgrow their DIY or registrar DNS solution at some point. Here are some of the signs that you’re ready to upgrade to a premium DNS solution.

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Buy a domain name. Associate that domain with a DNS server. Done.

When you’re spinning up a presence on the internet, domain registrars make it really easy to get started with basic authoritative domain name system (DNS) hosting. That’s what most small businesses need in the end - a reliable service that answers DNS queries. No more, no less.

Yet at a certain point, any thriving business will start to outgrow the standard DNS offering offered by most registrars. There’s a natural ceiling where a company’s requirements around scale, performance, and reliability simply outpace what registrar DNS can offer.

It’s usually a gradual realization, not a thunderclap moment. Over time, a series of creeping operational questions and concerns start to pile up, and when you look at the root cause you realize that DNS is the culprit. Hopefully that realization comes before the limited capabilities of a registrar offering start to impact your business.

Here at NS1, we know the power of premium DNS because we see the difference when our customers make the switch. Plus, we know that “it’s always DNS” because that’s what we live and breathe every day. But if you’re in the trenches, dealing with a thousand other issues on a daily basis, the signs aren’t as obvious. So we compiled a few signs that it’s time to consider an upgrade.

You need more than basic assurances about uptime and resilience

If your DNS is down, your business is down. As businesses scale, they need to ensure constant access to the customers who drive revenue growth. Registrar and "free" DNS services usually have a decent uptime SLA, but as networks grow in size and complexity, the need for failover planning and backup infrastructure usually outpaces what a registrar is willing or able to provide.

The need for resilience often leads growing businesses to adopt multiple DNS solutions in parallel. At a basic level, tacking on a secondary DNS provider as a failover option helps to protect against over-reliance on a single infrastructure vendor. It also gives network teams access to multiple feature sets, allowing them to adopt a “best of breed” approach from multiple solutions.

You want to do more than just answer the mail

As businesses grow, the quality of their DNS responses starts to matter more. Today’s customers have high expectations for any internet-enabled service. Delivering on those expectations at scale requires traffic steering capabilities that basic anycast DNS networks simply don’t offer.

Growth-oriented businesses with a focus on global expansion are usually the first to recognize the limitations of “vanilla” DNS, where all traffic is answered in the same way or by the same (usually North America-based) set of servers. Simply routing traffic to nearby infrastructure can be the difference between a successful service expansion and one that fails to meet expectations.

Most large enterprises use some form of traffic steering to optimize performance. Whether it’s routing queries by geography, application type, or performance factors, traffic steering ensures that you’re always putting your best network forward.

You start to care about the infrastructure that delivers your answers

Any network administrator knows that every flawless, high performing online experience is actually delivered from a spaghetti of back-end infrastructure elements. Orchestrating applications and content across all those clouds, CDNs, and on-prem resources gets complicated really fast. Delivering that orchestrated offering at the lowest possible cost adds yet another layer of difficulty.

Registrar DNS solutions simply can’t offer the flexibility most enterprise network teams need to fine-tune how their applications, services, and content are delivered. They can’t shift traffic on the fly to the lowest cost CDN. They can’t steer queries around deprecated services. They can’t automatically choose the infrastructure that maps to your contract commit levels.

You want to see what’s in your DNS data

DNS data offers a treasure trove of valuable information on how applications, content, and services are consumed online. It can also tell you a lot about the performance of your network and how misconfigurations might be impacting your ability to deliver a secure DNS infrastructure.

Unfortunately, registrar DNS offerings generally don’t offer the ability to peek behind the curtain and examine the details of traffic patterns. They may tell you a few facts about the symptoms of poor performance - increased NXDOMAIN responses, for example - but they won’t point you to the root cause or give you a sense of how to fix it.

Small businesses rarely have the capacity or in-house expertise to profit from DNS data. Yet as they grow into enterprises with more sophisticated technology stacks and teams capable of translating network data into action, DNS traffic becomes a crucial source of guidance for efforts to improve performance and drive down costs.

You have specialist-level questions

The basic DNS service provided by most registrars is designed simply to answer queries. That being the case, it rarely comes with a professional services offering or the ability to discuss DNS issues with a dedicated customer success manager. Since the service itself has no bells or whistles, there’s nobody to talk to when you have any questions that go beyond standard feature performance questions.

DNS is easy to understand when you only do simple things with it. It quickly becomes a minefield when you ask it to do more. The sheer longevity of DNS as a part of the internet means that there are layers of technical complexity which can take some time to truly understand and operationalize. It’s easy to break DNS if you don’t know what you’re doing, with potentially disastrous (and immediate) consequences.

Improved security is a classic example. Anyone who's "broken" DNS records by trying to implement security extensions (DNSSEC) knows that it's a weedy, technically intensive effort. Protecting against distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks can also become a game of whack-a-mole, where you spend more time plugging holes than you spend optimizing the performance of DNS lookups.

Having someone to walk you through the tradeoffs and complexities of DNS becomes increasingly important as a business grows and scales. Registrars can’t take you much further than basic troubleshooting.

NS1: Premium DNS for growing enterprises

At NS1, we’ve seen the constraints that basic registrar DNS offerings place on network performance, end user satisfaction, and revenue growth. Every day we see the transformative power of our premium Managed DNS offering at work, as it gives businesses the capabilities they need to deliver high-performing applications, services, and content.

We’ve also seen the concrete difference that a hands on, high touch support team can bring to network admins who are making the leap from a small or medium-sized enterprise into something larger and more consequential. The old adage is applicable here: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you set up your network right the first time, it’s much easier to manage in the long term.

But don’t take our word for it. If your business is ready to take the next step, or if you’re curious about the business impact of NS1’s advanced capabilities, contact us to learn more.

"For external DNS, we do about 10 percent of the amount of work that we did previously. That's a huge improvement. The amount of maintenance has gone down significantly and our maintenance cost is down by at least 70 percent."
Technical Lead & Production Engineer at Mid-size Media Organization

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