Mobile DNS Isn't Boring

The Most Basic Function Matters for Mobile Performance and Security

There is no service more basic to Internet performance and security than DNS -- the set of functions that turns names users can remember and type into addresses that the computer uses to find stuff. There's only one part of the entire mobile enterprise infrastructure that gets less attention than DNS. (Which part is that? The antenna in the wireless device, which is vital and so poorly understood that even radio folks are rarely very good at their design. I can hear you getting bored even now. I'll go back to DNS...)

In general, companies do one of three things when it comes to providing DNS for mobile devices. In many cases, they ignore it entirely, using the network provider's DNS servers for the purpose. In some larger organizations, they host their own DNS servers, adding both certainty and a maintenance burden to the process. Finally, there are companies that use a third-party DNS server for their name servers. If, as is so often the case these days, consumers lead enterprise tech adoption, I think we're going to see a lt more third-party DNS usage, because one of the very largest Internet names has just waded into the pool.

The good folks at LifeHacker tell us that Google will offer free DNS to, well, anyone who wants to use it. (You can get directions on using Google DNS straight from the source, too.) The idea is that Google's DNS servers are faster and, possibly, more up-to-date than your network service provider's DNS servers. There's every chance that this idea is correct, and that users would be happier through the simple expedient action of changing one (or maybe two) addresses in the network setup screen.

Of course, Google isn't the only DNS game in town. OpenDNS has been providing free DNS servers to consumers for years. With their service, you get more than a simple name server -- they add things like web site filtering and security functions. They also offer custom and engterprise features on a subscription basis, so the options are definitely there for business users. I'm happy to admit that I've been using OpenDNS's free service for years, and I don't miss the adventure of wondering whether my computer was going to be able to find my web pages at all.

Once you start going down the DNS road, you may discover that DNS can provide functions you hadn't really thought of. I've had a number of good conversations with the management team at Dynamic DNS, and they can make life better for both your end users and the managers who have to keep servers up and running no matter what is happening around those particular corporate assets.

For all its simplicity and vital importance, DNS can be the location of some devastating vulnerability exploits. When Dan Kaminsky broke the Internet, it was through a DNS exploit. That vulnerability has been defined and patched, but it still pays to understand and control what's going on with your DNS server. Leaving DNS up to whichever server the ISP wants to provide may work for the short term, but you (and your users) will be happier if you get some education and make some good choices.

And don't worry -- I'll wait a while before tacking the modern miracle that is the mobile device antenna. You'll love that one, you will...

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