OpenDNS is a DNS service provider that also specializes in network security for personal and business use. Their basic DNS services are free, but their advanced and extensive security features do require payment. OpenDNS began operating in 2006 and has since become one of the largest, most reliable recursive DNS services available. OpenDNS boasts that over 50 million people—nearly 2% of the world’s internet users—use the OpenDNS services, and they receive over 70 billion queries each day. They pride themselves on innovation and inventing new methodologies to eliminate cyber attacks from their DNS network, and they boast 100% uptime using an Anycast routing system for global failover. With 24 data centers in 14 countries, OpenDNS has strategically placed themselves at internet exchange points to shorten the network paths and increase overall speed.
OpenDNS began operations as a DNS service provider, but quickly expanded their services to include additional and innovative security features. While the company's products and promotions have changed over the years, their Premium DNS services are still free to sign up for and use. OpenDNS makes it easy to set up and it takes only a few minutes to do.
OpenDNS offers personal DNS services for individuals and families who are looking to make their home internet safer and faster. Connecting to the DNS is simple and does not require hardware downloads. The OpenDNS Home and Family Shield services are free and offer customizable security features (content blocking, anti-phishing, fraudulent site identification) for all devices connected to a single home network. The Home VIP service is $19.95/year and adds customer support, advanced security, and internet usage information to the basic Home services.
OpenDNS uses an Anycast routing system so that DNS requests are answered by the closest datacenter with built-in redundancy. They boast 100% uptime and even have a systems update page where the current status of each of their 24 locations is updated, as well as for the last 30 days.
OpenDNS makes security a priority and enforces high standards of security without added latency. They constantly collect information from their own resources and 200 partner security companies, analyze the data, and use the information to improve their users' experience. Two of their unique applications are built directly into the DNS and are available to all users, including at the personal level:
- SmartCashe: an intelligent caching system that uses the last known correct address for a website to make it available when it would otherwise be down
- PhishTank: a community-based database for phishing where individuals or groups can submit suspected phishes and once they have been verified as fraudulent, they are added to the open and accessible feed
OpenDNS's latest security platform is a line of cloud-delivered network security products called Umbrella that protects networks, Wi-Fi Hotspots, and devices in any location. Because it is cloud-based, there is no hardware to install and businesses can be up and running immediately. It includes three tiers of service: Umbrella Professional, Umbrella Insights, and Umbrella Platform. The Professional package starts at $28/user/year up to 100 users; the advanced packages require a quote for pricing. Each tier includes the following features (with additional benefits for the Insights and Platform packages):
- Blocking for malware, botnets, and phishing
- Detecting and containing advanced attacks with predictive intelligence
- No added latency and proven reliability
- Blocking malicious locations at the DNS level
- Viewing network security activity
- Customizable block lists
OpenDNS also offers a security package for one to five users each with up to three devices called Umbrella Prosumer. It provides all the same benefits and features as the Professional package, except the provision for network-wide coverage, and costs $20/user/year.
- Additional fees
- Customer support
- Blocked domains
While OpenDNS does still offer free DNS, the services are very basic and all of the advanced security features must be applied separately and at a cost. There are also reports that OpenDNS has previously changed what was included in their free services with little warning, which forced some users to either start paying fees or change service providers. Although it seems that their service offerings has stabilized, it is important to be aware that a free service will have limitations.
OpenDNS provides a live chat, phone numbers, and a web form for emailing the sales team on their website with a quick response time. However, customers receive email-only support and access to online resources unless they purchase additional customer support options. Benefits increase with each tier beyond the Basic Support level:
- Silver Support: phone support during business hours
- Gold Support: 24x7x365 phone support
- Platinum Support: technical account manager (TAM)
Because the security levels are heightened on the DNS and because some of the OpenDNS applications are community-based, users may encounter legitimate domains that are blocked or flagged incorrectly or unnecessarily. There are protocols in place to fix or prevent this from occurring, but with as many users and as much traffic as OpenDNS boasts, the process is bound to be somewhat slow.
The Bottom Line
OpenDNS delivers Premium DNS services to millions of users worldwide. Their DNS services are free to sign up for and use, and they can be set up easily without any hardware downloads. OpenDNS places a huge emphasis on security and offers innovative security applications at the DNS level to prevent and predict attacks. OpenDNS offers DNS and basic security packages for home and personal use, as well as their extensive Umbrella security platform for businesses. While the DNS services are free, the security features are not. OpenDNS has several contact methods listed on their website; however, clients have access to email-only support unless they sign up for additional customer support packages, which also come at a cost. DNS users should be aware that free services often have limitations and may change at the discretion of the provider, and they may encounter difficulties with unnecessarily blocked websites. Overall, OpenDNS provides quality DNS and security services for reasonable prices, with services that will appeal to a wide range of user needs.