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Is free DNS a good deal for business?

A year after Google Public DNS launches, IT pros seem to favor paid alternatives

By , Network World
November 17, 2010 06:04 AM ET

Network World - It's been almost a year since Google announced its free DNS service known as Google Public DNS, promising a speedier, safer way to surf the Web and sparking concern that Google would become the dominant DNS provider for ISPs and other large network operators.

These worries appear unfounded.  

Google has been quiet about its Public DNS Service since it was announced in December 2009, still referring to it as "an experimental launch" on its Web site. Google's silence has led some of its competitors to wonder aloud about whatever happened to the search giant's foray into DNS services.

"We don't compete with Google DNS," says David Ulevitch, founder and CEO of OpenDNS, a leading provider of free and paid DNS services for consumers and businesses. "Just another failed Google project maybe?...It got us some broader awareness during the announcement. Nothing negative at all. And nothing since."

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"We don't really come across Google," says Richard Hyatt, cofounder and CTO of BlueCat Networks, which sells DNS appliances. "Our customers are large enterprises or government agencies. They are not outsourcing their DNS traffic at the moment…Would they ever outsource their DNS to Google? I don't think so."

With Public DNS, Google entered a market already populated by other free DNS services such as OpenDNS, DynDNS and NeuStar's Ultra DNS Advantage.

Often supported by advertising, these free services handle what's called recursive DNS, which lets end users surf the Web by typing domain names into their browsers and translating them into the corresponding IP addresses.

The free services don't support external DNS, which is how a Web site publishes the latest information about its DNS and IP address changes to its customers over the Internet. Nor do they include the DNS services that companies run on their internal networks, which is an area dominated by special-purpose appliances and software.

While aimed at home and small business users, free recursive DNS services have attracted some companies and school districts.

Increasingly, however, businesses are opting for premium, paid recursive DNS services without ads and with additional security features such as Web content filtering rather than the free alternatives

Ulevitch is reporting a bigger push by corporations to purchase the paid enterprise version of his company's service, known as OpenDNS Enterprise. Since its release in October 2009, OpenDNS Enterprise has attracted nearly 1,000 enterprises including two global 50 corporations.

"Adoption of our enterprise service [is] growing dramatically," Ulevitch says, pointing out that many companies try the free version of OpenDNS and then migrate to the paid Enterprise version. He cites "an astonishing 98%" renewal rate."

Ulevitch says OpenDNS is getting half of its revenues from the Enterprise version, even though it's only a year old.

"It's been far more successful than we ever imagined," he says. "That said, we will always support and grow our free version. It's our base. It's a great service, and it generates a substantial amount of revenue each year, which helps fund our operations."

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