Buy a domain name. Associate that domain with a DNS server. Done.
When you’re spinning up a presence on the internet, domain registrars make it easier to get started with a basic authoritative domain name system (DNS) hosting. That’s what most small businesses need ultimately—a reliable service that answers DNS queries. No more, no less.
Yet at a certain point, any thriving business starts to outgrow the standard DNS offering provided by most registrars. There’s a natural ceiling where a company’s requirements around scale, performance and reliability outpace what registrar DNS can offer.
It’s usually a gradual realization, not a thunderclap moment. Over time, a series of creeping operational questions and concerns start to pile up, and when you look at the root cause, you realize that DNS is often the culprit. Hopefully, that realization comes before the limited capabilities of a registrar offering start to impact your business.
The IBM® NS1 Connect® team is aware of the power of premium DNS because we see the difference when our customers make the switch. Plus, we know that DNS issues persist because that’s what we live and breathe every day. But if you’re in the trenches, dealing with a thousand other issues daily, the signs aren’t as obvious. So, we compiled a few signs that it’s time to consider an upgrade.
1. You need greater uptime and resilience assurances
In the digital age, if your DNS is down, your business is down. As businesses scale, they need to help ensure constant access to the customers who drive revenue growth. Registrar and DNS services typically offer decent uptime service level agreements at no initial cost. However, as networks grow in size and complexity, the need for failover planning and backup infrastructure often surpasses what a registrar is willing or able to provide.
The need for resilience often leads growing businesses to adopt multiple DNS solutions in parallel. At a basic level, adding a secondary DNS provider as a failover option helps protect against over-reliance on a single infrastructure vendor. It also gives network teams access to multiple feature sets, allowing them to adopt a top-tier approach from multiple solutions.
2. You want to do more than answer the mail
As businesses grow, the quality of their DNS responses starts to matter more. Today’s customers have high expectations for any internet-enabled service. Meeting these expectations at scale requires traffic steering capabilities that basic anycast DNS networks lack.
Growth-oriented businesses with a focus on global expansion tend to be the first to recognize the limitations of conventional DNS. This is where all traffic is answered in the same way or by the same set of servers, typically located in North America. Efficiently routing traffic to nearby infrastructure can be the difference between a successful service expansion and one that fails to meet expectations.
Most large enterprises use some form of traffic steering to optimize performance. Whether it’s routing queries by location, application type or performance factors, traffic steering helps ensure that you’re putting your best network forward.
3. You care about the infrastructure that delivers your answers
Any network administrator knows that every high-performing online experience is delivered from a spaghetti of back-end infrastructure elements. Orchestrating applications and content across all those clouds, content delivery networks (CDN) and on-premises resources becomes complicated fast. Delivering that orchestrated offering at the lowest possible cost adds yet another layer of difficulty.
Registrar DNS solutions can’t offer the flexibility most enterprise network teams need to fine-tune how their applications, services and content are delivered. They can’t shift traffic in real time to the lowest-cost CDN. They can’t steer queries around deprecated services. They can’t automatically choose the infrastructure that maps to your contract commit levels.
4. You want to see what’s in your DNS data
DNS data offers a treasure trove of valuable information on how applications, content and services are used online. It can also reveal a lot about the performance of your network and how misconfigurations might be impacting your ability to deliver a secure DNS infrastructure.
Unfortunately, registrar DNS offerings generally don’t offer the ability to peek behind the curtain and examine the details of traffic patterns. They can provide you with a few facts about the symptoms of poor performance, such as increased NXDOMAIN responses. However, they don’t help you identify the root cause or offer guidance on how to fix it.
Small businesses rarely have the capacity or in-house expertise to profit from DNS data. Yet, as they grow into enterprises with more sophisticated technology stacks and teams capable of converting network data into action, DNS traffic becomes a crucial source of guidance for efforts to improve performance and drive down costs.
5. You have specialist-level questions
The basic DNS service provided by most registrars is designed to answer queries. Given this, it rarely comes with a professional service offering or the ability to discuss DNS issues with a dedicated customer success manager. Since the service itself is very basic, there’s nobody to talk to when you have any questions that go beyond standard feature performance inquiries.
DNS is easier to understand when you only perform simple tasks with it. It quickly becomes a minefield when you ask it to do more. The sheer longevity of DNS as a part of the internet means that there are layers of technical complexity that can take some time to truly understand and operationalize. Breaking DNS is easy if you don’t know what you’re doing, with potentially disastrous and immediate consequences.
Improved security is a classic example. Anyone who has tried to implement domain name system security extensions and encountered broken DNS records knows that it’s a weedy, technically intensive effort. Protecting against distributed denial of service attacks can also turn into a game of whack-a-mole, where you spend more time plugging holes than optimizing the performance of DNS lookups.
Having someone to guide you through the trade-offs and complexities of DNS becomes increasingly important as a business grows and scales. Registrars can’t take you much further than basic troubleshooting.
NS1: Premium DNS for growing enterprises
We’ve seen the constraints that basic registrar DNS offerings place on network performance, user satisfaction and revenue growth. Every day, we see the transformative power of our premium IBM NS1 Connect® Managed DNS as it equips businesses with the capabilities they need to deliver high-performing applications, services and content.
We’ve also seen the concrete difference that a hands-on, high-touch support team can make for network administrators who are embarking on the journey from a small or medium-sized enterprise into something larger and more impactful.
Here’s a timeless piece of wisdom that remains true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s better to take preventive measures than to deal with the consequences later. So, if you set up your network correctly the first time, it’s much easier to manage in the long term.
But don’t take our word for it. If your business is ready to take the next step or if you’re curious about the business impact of NS1’s advanced capabilities, explore IBM NS1 Connect.