OpenDNS on Mission to Improve Domain Name System - Easy to Set Up
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While I didn't have time to try out the service for myself (some deadlines are closer than others), OpenDNS makes it as easy as possible to sign up. Going to the "Get Started" tab on the home page of its web site gives you two options: changing the DNS settings on your router or changing the settings on your computer (or phone). Don't panic, though, because this isn't quite as geeky as it sounds.
If you're going to change the settings on your router, OpenDNS provides a selection of helpful pictures; just pick the one that matches your router (they also have names, so you can double check to make sure it's the right one), click on the link, and follow the directions. If you're going to make the change to your computer or phone, you can choose between Windows, Mac, Unix, Palm OS 5, and Win Mobile 5 (with BlackBerry coming soon). Clicking on Windows lets you choose between six flavors, from Windows 98 and Windows Mobile 5 all the way up to Windows Vista (the beta version at the time of this writing; no doubt that will be upgraded very soon).
As I mentioned, I didn't actually try out the directions or the service, but I have to give credit to OpenDNS for writing instructions that provide good handholding for non-geeks without being insulting. The directions for XP are a seven-step process. You get a quickie overview, and the directions themselves include copious screen shots, arrows, circles, and highlighting to keep you from getting lost. The instructions also include appropriate precautions; just before you actually change the settings, you're directed to "write down your current DNS settings before switching to OpenDNS, in case you want to return to your old settings for any reason."
The company provides a couple of quick troubleshooting tips, a link to let it know if you're still having problems, and a link to a print-ready version of the directions. There is also a phone number to OpenDNS support, though it isn't toll free. I'd like to add at this point that the folks at OpenDNS are very easy to reach if you need to. While writing this article, I communicated via IM with John Roberts, VP of Product for OpenDNS - he was the one who was online for OpenDNS when I clicked the "I'm online - send me a message" AIM link on the company's FAQ page. (You can also use Yahoo Messenger).
Most people who have used the service have seen at least some improvement in their speed; some have seen a surprising amount of improvement. Even web surfers in Europe who use the service say they can surf the web faster now, and that's counting the network latency of not having any servers up and running outside of the U.S. as of yet.
OpenDNS is not without its critics. Some have complained that it removes the redundancy that traditional DNS offers, and is therefore more susceptible to failure. Paul Vixie also leveled several criticisms at the company, including a certain loss of privacy for users (here he admits that he is more protective of his privacy than many people).
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