what’s ?

What is this new thing that was announced on April first? Was it a joke? Is it something that you as a small business owner need to think about, and if so what do you need to do?

Cloudflare's DNS

What is it?

According to Cloudflare, it is the fastest privacy-first consumer DNS service. There are quite a few things packed into that first sentence, let me begin with some definitions.

This is a company that provides various services to help websites and the internet run faster and safer. They do this by providing various services such as Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection, and more.
Domain Name
This is the URL that we’ve all become familiar with. For example I doubt you think of 567-8309 but you remember Jenny! (sorry for the ear worm). In this case, Jenny would be the domain name.
IP Address
This is the string of numbers, you can think of it either as a phone number (such as Jenny’s phone number) or as GPS coordinates. There are two different kinds, v4 which is the older style, such as IPv6 is newer and was implemented so we don’t run out of addresses. (How many times have you received a new area code?) these are written differently, as 2606:4700:4700::1111
This acronym stands for “Domain Name Service”, it is the directory that looks up where the match between the domain name and the IP address.
Why are the default DNS settings provided by your ISP potentially problematic?

Unless you’ve manually set your DNS settings on your computer you probably haven’t thought about this much before. If you search for using your ISP’s DNS over a third party, you get many different answers.

First, the DNS lookup servers your ISP maintains aren’t their first (or probably second) priority. They’re notoriously slow.

Second, every network transaction, from visiting a website to sending email, needs to know where it’s going. That’s where the DNS lookup comes in, computers like to log what they do — not that they’ll forget, but by design, there is a log file that captures all these DNS queries. How long that log file is maintained is essentially at the discretion of owner of that DNS server’s company, and that could be problematic for your privacy. Cloudflare is promising the delete all logs within 24 hours.

Why should you do it?

In theory you will have a slightly improved internet experience as Cloudflare’s computers will look up the DNS entry fast. You reduce some privacy concerns as the log files will be purged. There is a global network of powerful servers looking up your DNS queries.

Are there disadvantages?

With net neutrality is under fire you could find yourself blocked from websites your internet service provider doesn’t want you visiting or they could potentially find a way to slow down the response. However, you still need to trust someone (unless you’re able to build and maintain your own DNS server).

In this case, using requires you to trust Cloudflare. Based on their history for increasing security and privacy, right now I do. It’s what this all comes down to. Who do you trust, your ISP or Cloudflare? This sort of discussion last come up in 2009 when Google unveiled their Public DNS service.

What do you need to do?

If based on learning about DNS you want to change your settings it’s a straightforward process and you just need at replace your DNS settings on your devices (phones/tablets), computers, and router. There are detailed instructions provided at the website.
As this is something that needs to happen from the devices you use to access the internet, it’s important to help raise awareness if this is something you find important.

Links and Additional Resources

I hope you found this brief introduction to Cloudflare’s DNS service helpful. If you would like additional assistance please contact me.