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​What are the fastest DNS providers?

Cloudflare is only the latest company to provide free, fast, and secure Domain Name System services. Here's how the major DNS resolvers perform on the internet race track.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Cloudflare made headlines by introducing its new, fast Domain Name System (DNS) resolver, which boasted improved security and faster reaction times. But, is Cloudflare's really faster than OpenDNS, Quad9, Google Public DNS, and the other public DNS services? Let's look.

When it comes to speed, a lot depends on how close you are to a given DNS resolver. If you're just down the road from a datacenter hosting Norton DNS, it will be the fastest DNS resolver. Your brother, who lives in Australia will have entirely different results.

To find out which one is really the fastest for you, you must check them yourself. To test DNS resolvers, you need the Unix-based BIND dig command. If you can't run dig, you can use the Geektools Dig webpage.

From a Unix/Linux shell, you'll want to run dig with the following syntax: dig @IP address of DNS router test.site.com. So, to see how fast Google Public DNS responds to a DNS request for zdnet.com's IP address, you'd run:

dig @ zdnet.com

That's it. What you care about in the results is the line giving you the "Query time". This measures, in milliseconds, how long it takes for the DNS resolver to give you the answer. The lower this number, the better.

If you're running Linux, there's a new shell program, dnsperftest, which can quickly give you results for a dozen of the most popular DNS resolvers.

In my case, from Asheville, NC, the fastest DNS server was Cloudflare, with an average time of 18.9 milliseconds (ms) over my 100Mbps cable internet connection. Cloudflare was followed by Level3, a corporate DNS provider, which supports Verizon's DNS services, at 20.5ms; and Google Public DNS, 23.1ms. At the bottom, I found AdGuard, 110.8ms; UltraDNS, 154.4ms; and Yandex, 164ms. As you can see, while you may not be able to tell the difference between the best, you can certainly tell the difference between the top and bottom DNS providers.

Nykolas Z, who frequently writes about DNS, recently benchmarked some of the most popular DNS resolvers from sites around the world. He found "Cloudflare was the fastest DNS for 72 percent of all the locations. It had an amazing low average of 4.98ms across the globe."

Google Public DNS and Quad9 took second and third place. However, "Quad9 was faster than Google in North America and Europe, but underperformed in Asia/South America." The Russian-based Yandex consistently performed the poorest.

So, which is the best for you? Well, clearly you should check out Cloudflare, but to really know what's what for your home or company, you must do your own testing.

Me? After years of using should OpenDNS and Google Cloud DNS, I'm using Cloudflare now.

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