6. Changing your DNS provider
The problem: After you've set up your network, you probably don't give your Domain Name System settings any further thought. If you have a cable or DSL modem, you hook it up and it automatically gets its DNS settings from the cable or phone company's DNS servers. (If you're running a large enterprise network, typically you have your own internal DNS server to provide this service.)
Home and small-business users may want to look into finding an alternative DNS provider. Why bother? Two good reasons: better browsing performance and better security against known phishing and malware-infected domains. (Your actual performance will vary widely, depending on your Internet provider and, if you are using a cable modem, how congested your cable line is.)
Possible solutions: Individuals and smaller businesses now have several alternative providers that are worth considering, including OpenDNS and Google Public DNS, among others.
Getting your router vendor to support these servers is sometimes tricky. A few routers, such as 2Wire's Home Portal 3000 series that comes when you order service from AT&T U-verse, don't even support alternative DNS settings. Making matters more difficult, most of the automated setup routines that routers include don't allow you to enter your own DNS provider.
So if you've decided to go with an alternative, first make sure your router supports alternative DNS settings. If you're not sure, see if you can enter your own DNS address on your router's Web-based setup screens instead of just using what your Internet provider gives you.
Then try it out, including installing its software to optimize your individual PC, before messing with any of your router's settings. After you make the change to your DNS, there is a Java tool that can test your speed to see if it makes a difference. Depending on how you're connected to your Internet provider, it can help either a lot or not much at all. If it doesn't help, consider going back to your original settings.
Best available routers: Most of the router vendors allow you to enter this information. If yours doesn't -- well, either change your vendor or just live with the DNS provider you're given.
David Strom is a veteran technology journalist, speaker and former IT manager. He has written two books on computing and thousands of articles. His blog can be found at Strominator.com.