Are You Using ClearCloud DNS? If So, You MUST Read This

Every computer on the internet has an IP address.  This includes web servers, as well as any other computer that you might wish to connect to.  In order to make things more friendly, the DNS system allows you to refer to a computer by name rather than number, and this name is then passed to a very large lookup table in order to find out the remote machine's IP address.

That's how your web browser allows you to type in www.techsupportalert.com rather than a string of numbers.

Normally, your computer (or your router) is programmed to use the DNS server, ie the big names-to-numbers table, that belongs to your internet service provider.  However, there are a handful of other companies that provide alternative DNS services which offer additional features, such as blocking access to remote machines which are known to contain malware.

One such alternative DNS service is ClearCloud, and we've written about it on these pages in the past.  It's possible that you have re-programmed either your PC or your router to use ClearCloud DNS.

Unfortunately, the company behind ClearCloud DNS is shutting down the service in a few days, on 1st September.  At which point, if you don't change your DNS settings to use a different DNS server, you will not be able to access any system on the internet unless you specify its IP address rather than its friendly name.

Therefore, if you are currently using the ClearCloud DNS service, it's important that you stop doing so.  You can find information on how to remove the setting, and revert to your ISP's service, at http://forums.clearclouddns.com/messageview.aspx?catid=237&threadid=5146&enterthread=y

Alternatively, you can switch to a different DNS provider.  Two popular services are Open DNS and  Norton DNS.  Better still take the suggestion from reader "Deputy" below and install the free NameBench utility from Google that will find the fastest DNS server from your location to the sites you most frequently visit.  

Note that you don't need to download or install any software in order to change your DNS server, you just have to change some settings. Here are the instructions for Vista/7 and XP.

 

[The two final paragraphs of this article were updated to include some excellent user suggestions]

 

 

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Comments

by retiredfed (not verified) on 30. August 2011 - 14:30  (78652)

How about a utility that makes the job of switching DNS servers easy? You may be on the road and want to get the fastest DNS from your current location.

Nonags lists these 3, there may be others. What do you recommend?:

Netchange
http://www.lyrasoftware.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21&Itemid=65&lang=en

IP Change
http://ipchange.net/
http://www.nonags.com/freeware-ip-change_3641.html

DNS Jumper
http://www.sordum.com/?p=4573

by retiredfed (not verified) on 30. August 2011 - 14:58  (78653)

I ran namebench, and it did recommend 3 different DNS servers to increase speeds by 8%. But, should I be concerned that the comments showed that some sites were incorrect or hijacked at all DNS servers, including my current one?...and, no, google was not one of the recommendations, nor was openDNS.

by jeepmanjr (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 22:09  (78588)

YES!! Ran the utility which suggested the top DNS services (Google #1, of course). Loaded it...BAM! Cut load times waaaay down...no joking! Wish I had discovered this great little utility sooner! Good job to r.schifreen and Deputy!!

by helloworldsomebody (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 15:48  (78573)

Not about speed? The namebench utility showed that my Internet connection can be 42% faster if the specified DNS service is used. Is this the normal page loading and download speed or is it something else?

by RacerXX (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 13:05  (78560)

DNSBench works awesome.

http://www.grc.com/dns/benchmark.htm

by james199 (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 12:37  (78558)

Hey, we are talking milliseconds here...

by Patrick.B (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 17:41  (78577)

Yes, only milliseconds, but repeated tens of thousands of times.

Just like a bathtub has only drops of water, but a whole lot of them.

In any case, a big difference can be noticed between 80 ms and 30 ms. The browser will be snappy with the quicker DNS server.

http://www.grc.com/dns/benchmark.htm
Is great to do a quick scan to find a quick server, or a lengthy scan to find the best.

by dikei (not verified) on 31. August 2011 - 17:48  (78762)

Nope, every OS and browsers has DNS caching to minimize the number of DNS request. Therefore, switching to a faster DNS provider will not bring any significant gain to web browsing speed.

by MidnightCowboy on 29. August 2011 - 12:48  (78559)

People usually change to another DNS service for the extra security or filtering features rather than any expected increase in rendering speed.

by Aninnymous (not verified) on 31. August 2011 - 6:16  (78722)

People are all different.

Why would I use a DNS to filter when my antivirus proggie, Firefox Plugins, Hosts file, etc provide the filtering you find so important as well ?

Sorry, hoss, but DNS resolution is too important for speed to trust to some unknown perhaps oversubscribed, unknown speed server.

by MidnightCowboy on 31. August 2011 - 7:08  (78730)

It's true there are multiple choices of tools in this area, but the majority of computer users will either be unaware of their existence or unwilling to configure and use them. Changing to a security biased DNS service is something that can be achieved in seconds and needs no further maintenance thereafter.

I can only report on what I see and I use my own techs customer base as the main source of data. He achieved the biggest drop in re-infected machines by replacing the existing ISP DNS with a secure service. Originally this was ClearCloud, but is now Norton since the former was terminated.

There are hundreds of articles on this around the net and this one is interesting for those who might wish to read it.

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/realworld/361978/why-its-time-for-secure-dns

by gdb (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 10:24  (78548)

If you are an advanced user you could always use your own windows service running BIND. Just make sure to set the 'recursive', and I had to add 127.0.0.1 to the named.conf under 'recursion yes' option. http://alex.charrett.com/bind-on-windows-mainmenu-3

Cheers!

by randolindso on 29. August 2011 - 0:58  (78525)
by MidnightCowboy on 29. August 2011 - 6:18  (78532)

No malware protection in the free version. Except for those wanting content filtering, Norton would be a better option, or still install Norton and use the content filter included with FortiClient Standard.

http://nortondns.com/
http://www.softpedia.com/get/Security/Security-Related/FortiClient.shtml

by rowal5555 on 30. August 2011 - 8:52  (78628)

I have to say RUBBISH to that statement.
30 million users now trust OpenDNS to protect them from infected and phishing sites, without even considering all the other features they offer for free.
I have been using OpenDNS for years and never a glitch. Highly recommended.
Cheers

by MidnightCowboy on 30. August 2011 - 10:00  (78633)

Well, if folks are relying on the ad-supported free version of OpenDNS to protect against infected sites they're in for a nasty shock. The free ad-supported service gives anti-fraud and phishing protection only. If you want malware, botnet, drive by download and data protection you must pay for the enterprise version. All of this information is stated on their website.

Norton on the other hand...

"When Norton DNS is used, it delivers these IP addresses very fast, plus it does a quick check on each site to make sure that it isn't bad. If it is, you are protected from the site but you will get detailed information on why we think that the site is bad".

This is demonstrated quite well here in a comparison between Norton, Comodo and OpenDNS during which OpenDNS blocked nothing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OY6v90BfQg

by Aninnymous (not verified) on 28. August 2011 - 7:18  (78492)

2nd that recommendation - it increased my DNS resolution speed by an order of magnitude when I followed its recommended DNS provider.

by bowhunter1951 (not verified) on 29. August 2011 - 13:32  (78563)

"2nd that recommendation - it increased my DNS resolution speed by an order of magnitude when I followed its recommended DNS provider."

2nd what recommendation?

by Aninnymous (not verified) on 31. August 2011 - 6:08  (78720)

yus yus - namebench

it doesn't need a rocket scientist to examine the date-time hacks on the messages to see their order does it ?

by MidnightCowboy on 29. August 2011 - 14:27  (78568)

I'm guessing it's to do with the results of a namebench test, but life is full of surprises :)

by Deputy (not verified) on 28. August 2011 - 4:41  (78483)

To find the BEST and FASTEST DNS service (free), try the open source NAMEBENCH utility. It will test thousands of DNS servers, and compare your current DNS to the best performing servers available from your location.

https://code.google.com/p/namebench/

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