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Comparing the best DNS hosting providers

Posted by Rick on July 20th, 2022
dns-providers.jpeg

These days there's a huge number of DNS providers to choose from, and whether you're running a web agency, or hosting your own website, there are plenty of benefits to choosing a 3rd party DNS host rather than attempting to do it yourself.

We've chosen the best DNS hosting providers in a number of categories, and listed their prices, features, strengths, and weaknesses so that you can make the right choice for you and your business.

What is DNS?

DNS stands for Domain Name System, and it's the system that maps domain names, such as 'serverauth.com', to IP addresses, such as '12.34.56.78'.

Every website and internet service has an IP address. When you type a URL into your browser, it contacts a DNS server, which looks up the IP address associated with the domain name, and returns it to your browser, which then connects to that address. This all has to happen in fractions of a second to ensure a decent response time.

You'll no doubt have experienced times where services such as AWS or Cloudflare have gone down, and it's taken down a large chunk of the internet - everyone's websites are still online, it's just that the record of where to point the domain to can't be accessed.

Why use a dedicated DNS Service?

Doc Brown - Why

DNS servers can be run by your web hosting company or the place you registered your domain. They offer a basic, functional DNS service, but there are many advantages to using a dedicated DNS hosting service that many hosts/registrars won't offer, such as:

Security

Most dedicated DNS providers have high-level security steps not present in most hosting control panels or domain registrars. Two-Factor account security, email notifications, etc are essential for DNS. If someone was to gain access to edit your DNS records then you could find your website being 'piped' through a 3rd party server, stealing your customer's confidential data.

Performance

DNS servers are often configured to trade speed for security, but if you're running a large-scale website, you'll want to ensure that lookups are as fast as possible to ensure your visitors get the content they need as quickly as possible.

Most dedicated DNS providers use servers positioned around the globe to ensure maximum performance, whereas most hosts or domain registrars will just have all their DNS records hosted on a couple of servers in a static location - not ideal for fast response times, or reliability!

Scalability

DNS is a crucial part of any website and is likely to receive large amounts of traffic. By running your DNS on a dedicated service, you can make sure you have the capacity to handle high traffic, and the features to monitor and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

Most dedicated DNS providers are built to handle huge amounts of traffic. Smaller providers will often struggle to keep up with heavy load spikes.

Our top providers

Cloudflare

Cloudflare (Free & Paid) (site)

It should be no surprise that Cloudflare ranks highly on our list. It's become one of the most widely used DNS providers due to its free services and fantastic DDOS protection tools.

Here's why we love Cloudflare:

  • Performance: Cloudflare's Anycast network is one of the fastest and most reliable in the business. It's been tested and proven to provide industry-leading performance.

  • Security: Cloudflare is one of the most secure DNS providers. It offers DDOS protection and a host of other security features that make it a great choice for large websites.

  • Flexibility: Cloudflare's flexible configuration options make it a great choice for website owners who need a high degree of control over their DNS settings.

  • Pricing: Cloudflare's free plan is one of the best in the business. It offers DDOS protection and a host of other features that make it a great choice for small websites.

  • Ease of use: The modern control panel makes it incredibly easy to manage DNS records, and if you get stuck the documentation is top-notch.

Our verdict:

Cloudflare is a great choice for websites of all sizes and has the benefit of including fantastic DDOS protection. Its free plan is one of the best in the business, and its paid plans are very reasonably priced.

AWS

AWS Route 53 (Paid) (site)

AWS offers its own DNS service, primarily aimed at people using their hosting platform. That being said it can be used with any provider, but you'll find a fair few of its features are aimed at AWS users.

  • Performance: Route 53 uses a global network of servers for DNS. You'll be given 4 DNS nameservers for your domain, each located in a different physical location to ensure maximum redundancy and performance.

  • Security: AWS takes security extremely seriously. They offer a high level of granularity when it comes to setting up users' individual access permissions, and like Cloudflare, provide a range of Two-Factor security options.

  • Pricing: Route 53 is a fully paid option, with no free plan. That being said it's pretty low cost, at $0.50 per domain, dropping to $0.10 if you've got more than 25. There are also costs for queries, but these are pretty negligible and will likely only affect the top 1% of users. That being said it's worth reviewing their pricing before committing to Route 53.

Our verdict:

Route 53 is the obvious choice if you're using other AWS services. Its integrated platform means that it can automatically update records and make use of the AWS global network of services to make DNS management a breeze.

If you're not using AWS we'd probably suggest picking a different provider unless you've got a strong love of the Route 53 UI.

Azure

Azure DNS (Paid) (site)

Azure DNS is a paid service from Microsoft, that offers a reliable and high-performance DNS service. It works very similarly to Route 53, and is aimed primarily at users of other Azure cloud services, but works just fine for those hosting elsewhere as well.

  • Performance: Azure DNS uses a global network of servers for DNS. Just like with Route 53, you'll be given 4 DNS nameservers for your domain, each located in a different physical location to ensure maximum redundancy and performance.

  • Security: Azure offers a huge amount of security options for accounts. You could write a book about all the options the permission and role system provides. Being tightly integrated with other Microsoft products means you'll also have all the standard Two-Factor authentication options, and even options to restrict access by IP address.

  • Pricing: Azure DNS is a fully paid option, with no free plan. Pricing runs similarly to Route 53, charging $0.50 per domain, dropping to $0.10 if you've got more than 25. There are also costs for queries, $0.40c per million DNS queries for your first billion, and then it drops to $0.20 per million.

Our verdict:

Azure DNS is a great choice for users looking for a high-performance, reliable and secure DNS solution, who are already invested in the Azure ecosystem. The pricing is very reasonable, the only downside is the rather complex Azure user interface, which is still improving over time.

Oracle Cloud

Oracle DNS (Formerly Dyn) (Paid) (site)

Previously part of DynDNS, Oracle Cloud DNS is now the company's attempt at replicating the success of AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, and the similarity of the service they offer shows it!

  • Performance: Oracle DNS makes use of the company's global cloud network, and will provide you with multiple geo-located nameservers for optimum performance. Given this is a fairly new provider we're yet to see their full potential and expect performance to improve as they grow.

  • Security: Oracle offers the standard set of security features we've come to expect, including Two-Factor authentication, and an 'IAM' based user permission system to fine-tune individual user permissions.

  • Pricing: Oracle DNS prices things slightly differently from Route 53 and Azure DNS. Instead of charging per domain and then per query they just charge per block of 1 million queries, priced at $0.85. This means it can be fairly cheaper if your website traffic is in that sweet spot of just under 1 million queries per month, but really the price difference is negligible.

Our verdict:

Oracle DNS is the new kid on the block, and they've clearly been putting a lot of effort into their cloud services and are starting to rival the larger companies like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. Their DNS offering complements the rest of their services well, so if you're already using their compute platform then it makes sense to use their DNS hosting too.

Google Cloud

Google DNS (Paid) (site)

Google DNS is a paid service from Google. It's primarily aimed at users of Google Domains and Google Cloud, a service similar to Azure and Route 53.

  • Performance: Like most of the providers we've mentioned above, Google DNS uses a global network of servers (And Google does have a fair few!) to provide excellent performance. Being integrated into Google's network makes this one of the best performing DNS services out there.

  • Security: If you've got a Google account already for Gmail, Youtube or any of their other services you'll already be aware of the range of security options provided. Because the DNS service is part of Google Cloud it also benefits from additional security such as IAM-based roles and permissions.

  • Pricing: Google Cloud DNS is charged at $0.20 per managed zone, dropping to $0.10 if you've got between 26 and 10,000 zones and then down to $0.3 for over 10,000 zones. On top of this is the query charge - $0.40 per million a month, dropping to $0.20 once you go over a billion queries.

Our verdict:

If you've registered your domains with Google, or are using Google Cloud then their DNS service is ideal for you. Whilst it doesn't offer any of the DDOS protection with services like Cloudflare, its ease of use and tight integration into Google Cloud makes it incredibly quick and easy to use.

ClouDNS

ClouDNS (Free/Paid) (site)

ClouDNS is a lesser-known DNS provider that has been around since 2010. They offer both a free and paid service, with the free service being one of the most generous on the market. Despite being a provider that often flies under the radar they've got some big clients on their books, such as SpaceX, TikTok, and Kia.

  • Performance: ClouDNS uses a global network of Anycast DNS servers, with 34 locations around the world to deliver a reliable service.

  • Security: Features are a bit sparse here but the standard security you'd expect such as two-factor authentication is offered. There's no support for individual role-based permissions, but support for sub-users is provided.

  • Pricing: The free plan from ClouDNS is one of the best on the market. It gives you one DNS zone, with 50 DNS records and with up to 500,000 queries per month, as well as a mail forwarder. If you need more than this then their paid plans start at $2.95 per month. It's worth noting that the free plan does not use their Anycast service, so isn't going to have the same reliability and performance as the paid plans.

Our verdict:

ClouDNS is a great choice for those looking for a free DNS service that doesn't skimp on features or performance. The paid plans are also very reasonably priced, and if you need more than 3 zones then it's definitely worth considering ClouDNS. Their free plan includes a few additional features that aren't present on many of the other providers, such as domain forwarding, redirects, mail forwarding, and a Dynamic DNS service with API and scripts for automated updates.

DNSimple

DNSimple (Paid) (site)

DNSimple is one of the more expensive providers on our list, but its feature set and ease of use make it a great choice for many. They've been around since 2010, and in recent years have reinvented themselves as an easy-to-use provider with a high level of integration into 3rd party services such as GitHub, AWS, Netlify, Heroku, and more.

  • Performance: DNSimple uses a global network of Anycast DNS servers, with 20 locations around the world to deliver a reliable service. They also provide built-in LetsEncrypt and Sectigo SSL generation, DDOS Protection, and Domain Access Control.

  • Security: The service provides team accounts, with individual user role-based permissions, as well as the standard Two-Factor authentication, however for some reason limit this essential feature to their professional (and higher) plans.

  • Pricing: Prices start at $6/mo (or $60/year) for a 'Personal' plan, which will give you unlimited DNS records for up to 5 domains (with additional domains being $0.50/mo each). The $30/mo professional tier offers the same 5 domains, but with the addition of features like wildcard Letsencrypt, teams with role-based user management, and a 99% uptime SLA. Finally, the 'Business' plan is $300/mo and is primarily for larger organizations that need priority support, vanity nameservers, and a 100% uptime SLA.

Our verdict:

DNSimple provides a very easy to use service and is clearly positioning itself to rival Cloudflare. Their intuitive control panel makes domain management easy, and the extra touches like LetsEncrypt and forced HTTPS redirection to make it a great option for those wanting a hands-off approach. Whatsmore they've got great documentation and a full API to connect into 3rd party services. As an alternative to Cloudflare, we'd put them right up there with the best.

We're almost done!

So there we have it, our top picks for DNS Hosting providers. There are a fair few more out there but we picked the most widely used and recommended providers in 2022 here. All of these DNS providers are used by large organizations around the world and have a great reputation for the level of service they provide.

We're working hard on some fantastic new features here at ServerAuth, and some of those will involve some of the providers we've mentioned above. If you're a web agency, software development company, freelancer, or just have a large number of servers to manage then watch this space! ServerAuth is built for businesses like yours and we're committed to providing an easy-to-use server management service, aimed at making the day-to-day tasks of keeping your websites and services online a breeze!

Server Management & Security doesn't have to be a full time job.

ServerAuth provides a whole host of management tools, from controlling who can access your server, to adding cron jobs, securing your servers and installing packages. And with an ever growing suite of tools you'll always be one step ahead!

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