Managed DNS

Managed DNS: Must-Have Features & Key Vendors

Have you ever tried to visit a website only to be met with frustration because it’s down or slow? Well, that’s where managed DNS can save the day. Managed DNS refers to the practice of outsourcing the management and administration of Domain Name System (DNS) information to a third-party service provider. It helps organizations ensure the availability, security, and performance of websites or applications by providing a managed and monitored service for their domain name resolution needs. 

In this article, we will delve into the concept of managed DNS, explore its importance and benefits for businesses and organizations, and then look at best practices for implementing it.

Summary of managed DNS concepts

Here is a brief summary of what will be covered in this article.

Aspect Description
Main Differences between Managed DNS and Self-Managed DNS Adopting managed DNS can provide businesses with improved security, reliability, and scalability, though it can also result in increased long-term costs and reduced control and customization over DNS management.
Role of Managed DNS in Providing Visibility into Network and Service Performance Managed DNS provides visibility into network and service performance by providing detailed analytics and reports on DNS queries, responses, and latency.
Role of Managed DNS in Disaster Recovery and Internet Security Managed DNS plays a vital role in disaster recovery and Internet security by providing a redundant infrastructure to your organization in case of a network outage and by protecting your business from attacks.
Main Services Provided by Managed DNS Companies Most managed DNS companies offer a wide range of DNS solutions, such as authoritative and recursive DNS, global load balancing, and anycast as well as enhanced defense capabilities through DDoS protection, antimalware features, and more.
Benefits of Managed DNS for Businesses Managed DNS offers both technical and financial advantages, including streamlined setup, minimized downtime, enhanced security, scalability, cost-effective pricing models, and expansion possibilities.
Drawbacks of Managed DNS Some of the drawbacks of managed DNS may include a lack of control, potential security breaches, dependence on the provider, limited customization, and higher costs over time.
Best Practices Get the most from managed DNS by regularly monitoring DNS for performance, availability, and security issues using a combination of tools, including monitoring software, logs, and network traffic analysis.

Definition of managed DNS

Managed DNS is a service offered by providers or third-party companies that centralizes and simplifies the management of domain names and their associated IP addresses. With managed DNS, you don’t have to worry about the technical details of setting up, maintaining, and securing your own DNS servers because the provider takes care of all the behind-the-scenes work. 

Managed DNS also offers robust features such as load balancing, automatic failover, and advanced security options to ensure that your website stays up and running even in the face of network outages or security threats. This not only saves you time and effort but also ensures that your DNS infrastructure is secure, reliable, and optimized for high performance.


Main differences between using a managed DNS provider and doing your own DNS

When it comes to managing the Internet traffic to your website, you have two options: doing it yourself or using a managed DNS provider. But what exactly are the differences between the two, and which one is right for your business? Let’s take a closer look.

Managing your own DNS

In this scenario, you are responsible for deploying, configuring, securing, and maintaining your own DNS servers. This means that you need in-house technical expertise to handle the details involved. This approach provides you full control over your DNS setup and configuration, giving you the ability to customize the DNS settings for specific applications or services. However, while this method can offer more control and customization options, it also requires a significant investment of time and technical skills. 

Managing your own DNS can also provide cost savings in the long term because you are not paying for the ongoing management and maintenance fees associated with using a managed DNS provider. Additionally, managing your own DNS provides greater control over sensitive data and reduces the risk of security breaches.

While there may be higher upfront costs associated with setting up and maintaining your own DNS, the long-term cost savings and increased control make it an attractive option for many businesses.

Using a managed DNS provider

A managed DNS provider takes care of all the technical details for you, freeing up your IT staff to focus on other core business activities. With a managed DNS service, you redirect your domain’s nameservers to those of the provider, which takes care of everything.

Managed DNS providers offer a wide range of advanced features, as we will discuss below, all aimed at ensuring that your website is always accessible, fast, and secure. Without managed DNS, any such capabilities would need to be provided by the internal IT team. Additionally, a suitable solution eliminates the need for a substantial financial commitment, a tremendous advantage for smaller and mid-sized companies with limited resources.

That said, with a managed DNS provider, you may have limited control over how your sensitive data is stored and accessed, and you may have to rely on the provider’s security measures, which may not meet your organization’s specific needs or standards.

Relying on a third-party provider for DNS can also create a dependency on that provider, which can be a potential risk if the provider experiences downtime or goes out of business.

Comparing DIY and managed DNS

Feature Managed DNS Doing Your Own DNS
Setup Easy Complex
Maintenance Provided by the DNS provider Responsibility of the in-house IT team
Advanced Features Wide range of ready-to-use options, enhanced customizability, and better resource management Need to implement internally, with risk of misconfiguration
Reliability High Depends on the in-house IT team
Security High Depends on the implementation
Cost Fixed or pay-as-you-go payment, which could be high depending on the subscription plan; less up-front cost Can be more cost-effective in the long run, but only if the IT team is sufficiently trained, and carries potential cost risks due to errors; more up-front cost
Flexibility and Scalability High Requires technical expertise to scale
Control Poor Full control and customization
Risk Low High

Which choice is right for you depends on your specific needs and your available technical resources. If you want full control and customization of your DNS settings and have the in-house expertise to do it, then managing your own DNS may be the right choice for you; this way, you can reduce costs for the company in the long run. However, if you prefer to focus your IT resources on other tasks or leverage all the benefits of managed DNS discussed in this article, then a managed implementation may be the better choice.


Main services provided by managed DNS companies

DNS providers offer a wide range of services to help organizations effectively manage their DNS:

  • Authoritative DNS: Provides the actual mapping of domain names to IP addresses and is responsible for serving the DNS records for a domain.
  • Recursive DNS: Provides a caching service that can speed up the resolution of DNS queries by storing previously resolved DNS records in the cache.
  • Global load balancing: Distributes traffic to multiple servers based on factors such as server performance, geographic location, and IP reputation.
  • Failover and disaster recovery: Redirects traffic to a backup server in the event of an outage or failure.
  • Anycast DNS: A network of servers that responds to a single IP address and automatically routes traffic to the nearest server.
  • DDoS protection: Filters and blocks malicious traffic to prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
  • Security: Provides protection against malware, phishing, and other malicious activities through real-time threat detection and response.
  • Advanced analytics: Provides in-depth, real-time analytics and detailed information about the health of your DNS infrastructure, allowing you to quickly identify and resolve any issues.

Here are some of the major players in the managed DNS industry as of this writing, per G2 Crowd:

  1. Amazon Route 53
  2. Google Cloud DNS
  3. Cloudflare
  4. Dyn
  5. Akamai
  6. UltraDNS (Neustar)
  7. NS1
  8. DnsMadeEasy
  9. Verisign
  10. Infoblox
  11. easyDNS
  12. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) DNS
Top managed DNS providers ranked based on market presence and satisfaction (source)

How managed DNS provides visibility into network and service performance

Have you ever wondered why some websites load lightning-fast while others seem to take forever? Well, DNS plays a critical role in determining the speed and performance of a website, and managed DNS can provide administrators with expertise that lends valuable visibility into their systems’ network and service performance.

Imagine having a complete picture of how your website is performing, including real-time monitoring and reporting capabilities. This level of detail allows you, as an IT manager or a network engineer, to quickly identify and resolve any performance issues that may arise. 

Suppose you could monitor queries made to your website by response code and record type, as shown in the images below. 

Analytics for queries by response code.
Analytics for queries by record type.

Response codes such as “NOERROR” indicate that the DNS server is functioning as expected, while other codes, such as “SERVFAIL,” may indicate issues with the server or network configuration. If a business is experiencing a high number of “SERVFAIL” response codes, for example, it can use this information to troubleshoot the root cause of the problem, whether it is an issue with the DNS server, network infrastructure, or a specific service. 

If you see a lot of NXDOMAIN response code types, you might be wondering: What are people querying for that is causing the server to respond with a nonexistent domain answer? Or maybe it’s not just people accidentally making queries to those subdomains but an indication of a potential attack, causing the server to become overwhelmed and unable to respond to legitimate requests.

These are examples of visibility that is crucial to ensuring that network and service performance are optimal and that any potential issues are addressed before they impact business operations.


How managed DNS assists with disaster recovery and Internet security

Get ready! We’re going to dive into the complex world of disaster recovery and Internet security to see how managed DNS can save the day. 

Bear in mind that some of these features are only available in comprehensive managed DNS packages. It’s not enough to just get any old managed DNS service—be sure to read the fine print to see what options and capabilities you’re getting.

Redundancy and failover

With managed DNS, you’re in good hands during a disaster. The system provides backup servers and automatic failover, so even if the primary server goes down, your traffic won’t be affected. Your services will continue to run smoothly as traffic is redirected to a secondary server.

Faulty equipment replacement

The skills and expertise of the team providing managed DNS services are just as important as the redundancy and failover features described above. A reliable managed DNS provider can respond quickly by replacing faulty equipment to minimize downtime. These capabilities provide you with peace of mind that your internet infrastructure is secure and your services will remain uninterrupted.

Disaster recovery planning and testing

A managed DNS provider can assist organizations in preparing for disaster by offering planning and testing services as part of the package. This gives organizations peace of mind, knowing that their disaster recovery strategies are up to par and ready to go when needed. 

Quick and seamless failback

When the primary server is back up and running, managed DNS can flawlessly redirect traffic back to it with no interruptions for users. This helps keep downtime to a minimum and makes sure that your services are always accessible.

DDoS protection

When it comes to Internet security, managed DNS has got your back! One of the most common features in managed DNS is the ability to act as a shield against DDoS attacks by intelligently filtering out any harmful traffic and only letting the good stuff through to your servers. And if your website becomes a target of a DDoS attack, no worries! A managed DNS provider can block that malicious traffic, keeping your website up and running seamlessly for your visitors. 

Real-time threat protection

Managed DNS providers can keep your network safe from harmful things like malware and phishing by quickly spotting new dangers and acting right away. Their systems include state-of-the-art equipment and services to keep most attackers at bay and minimize the impact of malware. For example, if there’s a bad IP address trying to get in, the managed DNS provider will block it; if your main server has a malware problem, the provider can redirect traffic to a safe server.

Use of secure DNS protocols

Managed DNS services usually employ secure DNS technologies like DNSSEC and TLS to keep your network safe from DNS hijacking, tampering, and eavesdropping. For instance, with a managed DNS provider that has DNSSEC, your users’ DNS requests will have a digital signature and encryption. This means that the DNS answers they receive are legitimate and can’t be altered.


Drawbacks of managed DNS

If you are considering switching to a managed DNS service for your organization, it’s essential to understand both the potential benefits and drawbacks of this type of service. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the challenges and limitations of managed DNS so that you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right choice for you. 

Lack of control

This refers to a partial loss of control as the management of the DNS infrastructure is outsourced to another entity. By relying on a third-party provider to handle your DNS settings and troubleshoot any issues, you will be limited in terms of the level of customization and your control over the DNS setup and configuration. This may restrict some actions that an organization may want to perform, such as making certain application-specific changes to DNS records.

Security risks

When it comes to managed DNS, there’s always the possibility of new security risks cropping up. Having a provider take care of your DNS traffic and offering security measures like DDoS protection and security protocols can be a huge help. However, it also means that sensitive information like IP addresses could end up in the hands of malicious actors if there were to be a security breach. And let’s face it: No one wants to be a target of a cyberattack. 

Lack of flexibility and dependence on a single provider

One downside to keep in mind when deciding on a managed DNS service is the potential for vendor lock-in. This happens when a company uses a provider with proprietary systems or software that can’t easily be moved to another provider. 

In addition, you are relying on your current provider to release your DNS to a newly managed service, so there may be delays and mistakes in the migration process. 

DNS monitoring and managed DNS

Have you ever experienced a slow or disrupted Internet connection and wondered what could be causing it? Could the problem be related to DNS performance or availability? 

It could be. We all know that DNS is a crucial part of the functioning of the Internet. It acts as a bridge between domain names and IP addresses, and without proper DNS resolution, websites can be slow or entirely inaccessible. In light of this, monitoring DNS is a critical step to ensure the smooth functioning of a domain and prevent any potential disruptions. 

DNS monitoring is important because it ensures availability, reliability, and security:

  • Availability: Making sure your website or application is accessible to users is critical; DNS monitoring helps detect and prevent availability problems.
  • Reliability: DNS monitoring helps maintain the proper functioning of your website or application.
  • Security: As a critical aspect of the Internet, DNS can be prone to attacks. Over the past few years, there have been several instances of cyberattacks specifically targeting DNS. This highlights the need to closely monitor DNS performance to maintain its security and reliability.
  • Performance: Monitoring your DNS can help prevent performance issues that can negatively impact the user experience.
  • Uptime: DNS monitoring helps ensure that your website is available to users 24/7. 
  • Load balancing: DNS monitoring helps ensure that load balancing is working as intended, distributing traffic evenly across multiple servers and preventing any one server from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Troubleshooting and root-cause analysis: DNS monitoring is critical for identifying and resolving issues in real time, helping to minimize downtime and keep your website or application running smoothly. It also provides valuable information to help you identify the underlying cause of issues and resolve them.

Most managed DNS providers offer solutions or features for DNS monitoring, which allows you to do real-time monitoring and analysis of DNS traffic and performance. This helps organizations troubleshoot potential network performance problems and optimize the DNS infrastructure.

Now that we know the critical importance of monitoring your DNS, let’s take a look at the best practices for doing so:

  • Use zone transfers: Zone transfers refer to the process of transferring DNS records from one nameserver to another. Monitoring zone transfers helps ensure that all nameservers are up to date and in sync with each other. This is important to prevent bottlenecks in the DNS resolution process and ensure fast and accurate results for end users.
  • Monitor nameserver issues: By monitoring nameserver availability and performance, you can detect problems such as intermittent DNS failures, incorrect nameserver configurations, and connectivity problems.
  • Track DNS record propagation: Monitoring DNS record propagation is essential to ensure that changes made to your DNS configuration are correctly reflected in the global DNS network, minimizing downtime and ensuring fast and accurate resolution for end users.
  • Detect DNS floods: This type of DDoS attack is designed to overload the servers with excessive requests, causing the servers to slow down or crash. Monitoring the traffic patterns of DNS servers and/or monitoring the response time for a particular DNS server can help you detect DNS floods and alert administrators to take action before a complete outage occurs.
  • Use content delivery networks: The primary purpose of a content delivery network (CDN) is to get content to users faster. Some CDNs use DNS redirection methods to redirect users to the proper edge servers, allowing faster loading of the web pages and assets. By monitoring the response time of nameservers of your CDN provider, you can detect if it’s slow to respond to any user in a particular location.
  • Employ path visualization: By using path visualization, it’s possible to observe network connectivity and determine which DNS servers are handling queries in various regions globally. You can also see high-latency links and high-loss interfaces and dig deeper into other issues along the path.
  • Use route visualization: By visualizing the routes of your network, you can determine if any routing problems are causing issues with your DNS, especially in complex networks that use anycast or global server load balancing (GSLB). This allows you to monitor changes in routing and evaluate their impact on network performance as well as the availability and response time of your DNS servers.


DNS plays a vital role in any organization’s online presence, and the two main ways of setting up and dealing with DNS are doing it in-house (“DIY”) or using a managed DNS service.

DIY is the traditional approach and provides complete freedom for the company to administer DNS however it wants, but it has a number of disadvantages, such as the need for specific expertise, hidden costs, and higher risk. The natural choice for any company unwilling to dedicate a full team to DNS is relying on a managed DNS service. Managed DNS offers several benefits, including reduced costs, improved network visibility and performance, and enhanced disaster recovery and security measures. 

Following best practices for monitoring DNS, including regular testing and monitoring of critical services, record accuracy, and security, is key to ensuring the success of your managed DNS implementation. Ultimately, the decision to use managed DNS will depend on the specific needs and goals of your organization.

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