Internet Performance Delivered right to your inbox

New England Suffers a DNS Nor’easter

Last night, around 8:30pm eastern, Internet users around New England experienced a Nor’easter of sorts, but this one wasn’t related to weather, but to the DNS. My wife Erin and I were settling in for the evening when the “storm” hit. Erin had just popped onto her work-issued laptop to complete some holiday shopping when she said, “Google is down.” I laughed a bit, knowing that Google couldn’t possibly be down, and took a few minutes to investigate on her computer. Google, Facebook, Twitter, CNN, all the major web properties weren’t resolving in DNS (a trained eye watching Internet Explorer try to load a page can tell the difference between a DNS problem and a network problem). So Google wasn’t down, but it seemed there was a problem with DNS.

So I pulled out my Mac, and had a look. A quick inspection revealed that the recursive name servers provided by our ISP weren’t responding to DNS queries. A quick ping and traceroute showed me that I had connectivity to the outside world, so I quickly launched Internet Guide, enabled, and I was back surfing the web. From there, a quick consult of Twitter, Facebook, and the web indicated I wasn’t the only household having a problem.

Google Trends Results for “DNS” and “Outage”

So how could it be that my ISP’s connection to the Internet was working well enough for me to surf the web, but Erin couldn’t? It breaks down like this: There’s two major pieces to Internet plumbing, one is the network itself, responsible for suffling bits from your house out to the website you want to go to. Everything at this layer knows how to communicate using IP addresses, an equivalent of telephone numbers for the Internet.

The second piece is the DNS, or the Domain Name System, which is the Internet’s equivalent of the telephone book. The DNS lets you to type popular website names into your browser, while the underlying Internet at large knows how the system works via the IP addresses. So you get all the luxury of typing in a domain name, like, and the Internet routes everything to the right place. Each ISP in the world helps to run the DNS, by providing users with Recursive DNS service, whereas every website in the world helps run the DNS by having Authoritative DNS. Last night, the Recursive DNS piece broke for a number of people using this particular national ISP.

By having Internet Guide installed on my computer (Windows, Mac OS X, and *nix compatible), I was easily able to switch to an alternate set of Recursive DNS servers and get back online quickly, with just one mouse click. Internet Guide essentially re-routes your DNS away from your provider’s servers, and onto Dyn’s globally deployed DNS network. This means you can have consistently reliable DNS no matter where you are in the world.

I’ll say it (and many others should to), Internet Guide saved Christmas shopping for the night. By having a simple piece of software installed, I was able to utilize alternate DNS servers, and get back online. Did I mention that Internet Guide is free? Try it this holiday season!

Share Now

Whois: Tom Daly

Tom Daly is a co-founder of Dyn, the world leader in Internet Performance Solutions that delivers traffic management, message management, and performance assurance. Follow on Twitter: @TomDalyNH and @Dyn.