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September 16, 2015

Is it Time to Move Up from Route 53?

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Four seconds is a huge amount of time. In four seconds, a person falling from a plane will have dropped almost 735 feet. In four seconds, a bullet fired from a Barrett M82 sniper rifle will have covered over 9,000 feet of distance. In four seconds, a BMW M6 will have gone from a standing start to over sixty miles per hour.

And in four seconds, at least a quarter of your website visitors will have given up and left if your page hasn’t fully loaded.

Now, some visitors might stick around if some of your page is loaded, or if they’re seeing clear visible evidence that your page is, in fact, in the process of appearing. But if we break that process down, the very first thing that must happen is your visitor performs a DNS query and gets back an answer with your website’s IP address. It’s completely invisible to them, and it happens first—so if it is slow, it really hurts the rest of the process. It’s like a sprinter who is late leaving the blocks after the starting gun fires. No matter how fast he runs, he’s already badly behind.

There’s a popular truism in Information Technology that gets quoted a lot: “You can have fast, reliable, or cheap; choose any two.” It’s funny, but at the same time, experience proves its accuracy time and again. Consider Amazon Web Services (AWS). When you first start out using AWS, with just a small handful of EC2 instances, it’s undoubtedly fast and cheap. You can build an entire infrastructure for your startup in minutes, and the monthly bill costs a tiny fraction of what you’d pay anywhere else. For most startups, getting up and running with AWS or another low barrier cloud provider is the right thing to do.

But EC2 is not inherently reliable. Building instances in a single availability zone leaves you open to the same failures you’d face if you put all your servers in a single colo location, and if you want reliability, you’ve got to build more infrastructure, putting instances in more availability zones across more regions. And then one month, surprise, surprise! It’s no longer cheap. Now it’s fast and reliable, only.

When it comes to Amazon’s DNS offering, Route 53, you don’t have the option to build more DNS infrastructure, trading cheap for reliable or fast. Instead, you get what you get: cheap and reliable. Nobody questions Amazon’s historical uptime of 100% for Route 53. And nobody questions that it’s incredibly inexpensive. These are great reasons why young, cash-strapped startups often prefer Route 53 as their first DNS provider.

But everyone forgets that you only get two of the three choices: fast, cheap, or reliable. As your traffic scales up and you start to think about end-to-end delivery performance of your application, this simple fact may mean it’s time to reconsider your DNS and traffic management strategy.

Route 53 is cheap and reliable, but it is by no means fast. Don’t take our word for it. Check out what the industry leading monitoring solution Catchpoint says, using their massive network of over 400 backbone measurement locations, 60 last-mile locations, and 47 wireless 3G and 4G nodes worldwide: they show that on average Route 53 is twice as slow as NSONE. And it’s not just Catchpoint: other third-party DNS monitoring tools show similar results. If you’re using Route 53, then a visitor to your site is losing precious time waiting for a DNS response before his or her browser even begins to show activity.

All this boils down to a simple conclusion, one which many NSONE customers have arrived at on their own: Route 53 is a great choice for your DNS when you’re just starting out, but as soon as speed begins to matter, or you expand beyond a single location, then it’s time to step up to professional-grade DNS and traffic management from NSONE. We operate one of the world’s fastest, most advanced, and most reliable managed DNS networks — now in 21 global delivery POPs. And, with all the intelligent traffic management features built right into our platform, you’ll be able to use screaming-fast DNS to route your users to the best datacenter or CDN with ease, enabling you to scale your traffic and delight your users.

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