Review: OpenDNS

Web filtering issues and DNS performance challenges are often complex problems, but the solution need not be overcomplicated. OpenDNS provides free tools and services that help businesses manage Internet use, secure Web traffic and improve DNS performance.

Web filtering issues and Domain Name System (DNS) performance challenges are often complex problems, but the solution need not be overcomplicated. OpenDNS provides free tools and services that help businesses manage Internet use, secure Web traffic and improve DNS performance.


  • Manufacturer: OpenDNS
  • Services: Web content filtering, phishing protection, DNS services
  • Operating systems: Linux/UNIX (inclulding Ubuntu and BIND), Macintosh (OS 9 and OS X), Windows (Windows 98 and newer), Mobile Devices (including select Nokia handsets, Palm OS 5, Windows Mobile 5, Playstation Portable and RAZR phones)
  • Downloads: OpenDNS Utilities
  • Price: Free (Premium Services available)
  • For a closer look, check out the Open DNS Photo Gallery
  • Additional information

Who's it for?

It's almost universal — businesses from all industries and of all sizes struggle with Web filtering and DNS challenges. From small businesses to schools to enterprise environments, the Internet enables commerce and communication, but Internet access also opens a host of security threats and potential performance bottlenecks.

Internet filtering, and building a robust DNS infrastructure, is critical if any organization is to cost effectively deploy Internet services within an office or facility. Some turn to expensive hardware appliances that require recurring subscriptions. Others delve deep into the complexities of proxy services and carefully architected DNS infrastructure.

Most all organizations, however, can simplify DNS performance challenges, and implement effective, customizable Web filtering, using OpenDNS. According to the company's statistics, "more than 10 million people at businesses, schools and in homes around the world" rely upon OpenDNS' Web content filtering service to protect their systems.

What problem does it solve?

OpenDNS provides reliable, robust and trustworthy DNS services. Organizations can offload the twin burdens of building scalable and dependent DNS and Web content filtering services to OpenDNS. Better yet, OpenDNS delivers proven DNS solutions that cost nothing. The service, which protects networks from phishing threats and enables Internet policy enforcement, also lowers costs because it is free.

Standout features

  • Simplicity - Building a reliable DNS infrastructure is difficult, but organizations that leverage OpenDNS for DNS translation and to enforce Internet policies need only point their servers and routers to use OpenDNS' DNS servers. Client workstations can be set to use domain servers for local DNS translation, thereby enabling an organization's PCs, servers and other network equipment to easily find local resources. But it's easy to quickly reconfigure an organization's servers and routers to tap OpenDNS' DNS servers (as opposed to an ISP's DNS server) to fulfill DNS requirements. Several preset filters can be selected, or an organization can customize filter settings by selecting from dozens of categories. Further, OpenDNS maintains an in-depth collection of comprehensive step-by-step articles that eliminate any guesswork from the project.
  • Utilities - No software need be installed to migrate an organization to using OpenDNS services. Those administrators wishing to automate DNS updates (such as when a dynamic IP address, as opposed to a static WAN address, is in use), however, will find a collection of free easily-configured utilities that address such issues.
  • Pricing - The service is free. Compared to recurring subscription costs or software applications that require annual renewal per seat, OpenDNS immediately reduces operating costs associated with Web filtering.
  • Scalability - Offices big and small tap the benefits associated with OpenDNS' services. From sole proprietorships to global multinational corporations, organizations of all sizes rely upon OpenDNS to provide DNS services, protect against phishing attacks and filter Internet use.
  • Multi-platform support - OpenDNS services work on a very wide variety of computing platforms including Linux, UNIX, Macintosh, Windows and mobile phones. In addition, OpenDNS services work with most every major hardware firewall brand.
  • Reporting - OpenDNS provides administrators with a customizable Dashboard. Statistics can be divided by network to track total requests, unique domains, unique IPs, blocked domains and more.

What's wrong?

Web filtering isn't foolproof - While the OpenDNS Web filters do a great job of reducing false positives, refusing access to anonymizer and proxy Web sites (if so elected) and blocking appropriate destinations by category, the service isn't airtight. Technologically savvy users can sometimes circumvent the service's protective system, but that's true with many Web content filtering solutions.

Competitive Products

Bottom line for business

Technology administrators and business owners have too many issues on their plates to have to also worry about enforcing Internet use policies, maintaining block lists, protecting against incessant and ever-changing phishing attacks and maintaining a robust and reliable DNS infrastructure. OpenDNS, which boasts clients among prominent universities, government agencies, libraries, nonprofits, retailers, manufacturers and other industry segments, is a favorite of systems administrators. And, for a reason; the service is simple and it works as advertised.

User rating

Have you encountered OpenDNS? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of OpenDNS in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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