Blog — Tips and Tricks from the Mac Zen Team

Enhance Your Internet Performance and Improve Your Security

Every once in a while I’ll come across a computer problem that affects a lot of people, with few answers available to help them get to the root of the problem. One such issue is slow internet. Sometimes the problem is down to the customer’s home network, at other times the quality of service from the provider. So often over the last couple of years though, has been an obscure setting right in the middle that dramatically affects the performance of your network—DNS.

DNS stands for Domain Name System. A link to the Wikipedia entry is here, but the meat of it is that a DNS server acts like an operator for the internet. When you type in www.maczen.ca, your local provider (most often), is queried as to what web server to connect you to. Once the server is found, your web browser (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) requests to have the page sent.

This initial request can sometimes be unresponsive. Your provider’s servers just can’t handle the load of everyone asking at once to be connected to their requested websites. Normally once you are actually connect to a website, the download is swift and representative of the speed you’re supposed to be paying for.

Stuck Safari Progress Bar - the blue progress bar freezes shortly after initiating a connection to a website

If we can speed up that initial connection, your internet performance will improve greatly. I the case I’m going to discuss, you switch this job to a particular third party other than Shaw or Telus—your most likely provider if you’re in Western Canada.

OpenDNS.com

OpenDNS.com has a global network of domain name servers, and handles the domain traffic from 50 million active users every day. Many of whom are large companies that require the performance and security measures available.

Aside from getting your request through to the web server faster, OpenDNS uses their massive pool of servers to constantly protect you from accidentally clicking through known phishing attempts (when you get an email that looks like it comes from your bank, for example).When you accidentally click on a link that could take you to a bad web server, OpenDNS pops up an says “Hey! you’re going somewhere bad”, and interrupts the connection to the compromised web server.

A third level, is that when enabled, OpenDNS can also filter your network traffic to prevent connections to adult content, thus providing an easy way to protect your family.

Sounds like a win-win really. The cost? Free for consumer/household use. It doesn’t get better than this really. Truly fast internet, and a lot more protection than what just your provider can give you. Now just so we’re clear, this doesn’t replace what Shaw or Telus gives you, it just makes it better.

Now for instructions on how to do this. OpenDNS has done all of the work for me, so I’ll pass you on to them. They’ve even included a link to a video to show you how to get started by setting up an OpenDNS account on the right hand side of the computer setup page. If you feel like your home or business network needs a professional hand, please feel free to call for a consultation. Otherwise their instruction’s simple steps are worth a try. Follow the directions closely, and your internet experience will be very different from what it is now.