A DNS (domain name server) is basically a database server that maps the webpage URLs to their respective Host IP address of their origin server. IP addresses like 192.168.1.1 are usually hard to remember and type & that was the reason why URLs were put into place. Then these URLs are mapped to the original IP address using a DNS server.
There are local DNS servers for your ISP, your employer in the office – and basically they can limit the websites that you can visit. If the IP address of a particular website is removed from the DNS – the ‘fancy’ URL you type into the browser address bar no longer has any connection with the web content you’re trying to access.
The most popular DNS available were Cisco’s OpenDNS & Google Public DNS. While OpenDNS was better in privacy since it doesn’t monitor you like Google does, it was a tad slower than Google DNS. But now Cloudflare – a company known as the global leaders in Content Delivery Networks (CDN) launched their own DNS service. It’s called 14 DNS and claims to be the fastest and secure DNS right now.
We’re putting the Google DNS & Cloudflare DNS against each other to see who wins the ultimate balance between privacy & speed. Off we go!
Google DNS address: 126.96.36.199
Cloudflare DNS address: 188.8.131.52
Okay. This is the most debated part. Since these DNS servers resolve your webpage queries to the IP addresses, they know what websites you visit. Every cookie or web cache stored can actually track you down to the very MAC address of your Network Interface unit & your computer IP.
Google is the king of internet services, no doubt. You probably are dependent on lot more Google services than you can think of. Even if someone is a minimal user like ones who use Gmail, Search & YouTube encounter a lot of services that aren’t visible – but definitely they are tracking your data.
Same applies with Google DNS. Whatever service Google offers you have some sort of usage tracking cookies so that your browsing habits can be anonymously (huh!) shared with Google’s partners. The phrase is goes like ‘ We’re collecting usage preferences to ensure that users are provided with best browsing experience. The data will be shared between Google Partners’ – which essentially means AdWords & DoubleClick (advertising platforms).
This basically mean that searches made by users via Google DNS will be logged into the servers & sold to advertisers. Also using Google DNS means that even if you’re browsing Incognito – your data will be visible to Google.
Cloudflare is another major company whom many of you might not be heard of. Don’t be surprised if we say that more than 75 of the webpages on internet are powered by Cloudflare’s Internet Accelerator (CDN). Some of them include popular streaming services Spotify & Sony Entertainment use CF CDN servers to accelerate delivery of content.
Cloudflare acts as a proxy – essentially hiding the origin IP address of web server with Cloudflare’s custom generated name servers. This leads the web traffic to origin servers route via Cloudflare. It also masks out the user IP address so that no website can track the exact IP of user.
But Cloudflare did had its share of controversies. In year of 2017, a massive memory leak from Cloudflare caused Cloudflare’s session cache cookies being discovered amongst Google Web cache. This means that any person with someone’s username & session cookie could login to their accounts in the compromised websites without passwords. The engineers were quick enough to react to the situation & worked with Google to remove the cached content. Read more about the Cloudbleed Bug
But generally speaking Cloudflare is better known to provide privacy to the end user so its better than Google DNS.
How fast does each of these perform – and what makes it perform faster than the rest of DNS providers?
Google DNS is fast. Insanely fast. Since we use a lot of Google services, most contents of the websites are already cached in the DNS itself. So there’s very little loading of other components. And Google services like Play Music & YouTube make use of this advantage to deliver audio/video content by smart buffering methods. Google’s centralised datacentres aid in content being served fastest to users.
Google DNS was the champion before release of CF DNS – the throne is taken by Cloudflare. Its interesting to know that instead of centralised cache, CF uses Edge cache system. It means that parts of websites are stored in different servers in different parts of world. When a user requests for a site, the nearest DNS serves them a cached version of that website. Cloudflare has almost 1000+ DNS servers in the world in each continent – in each country.
In fact some speed tests even revealed that Cloudflare DNS have better speeds than other DNS providers.
(The following table shows DNS resolution test results conducted by DNSPerf comparing Google DNS, Cisco OpenDNS & Cloudflare 14 DNS alongside ISP average)
User privacy & security are considered as different entities. While Privacy relates merely to usage of user data by the providers itself – security is considered as a hackability indicator. There are a host of secure protocols for DNS’s that ensure secure web browsing. They are DNSCrypt, DNS over TLS & DNS over HTTPS.
Until Cloudflare DNS offered DNS resolution over TLS feature, Google DNS did not have such a feature. Even without DNS over TLS, Google DNS is secure – as hacking a Google service is the most difficult thing to attempt in the internet. Google DNS also supports DNS over HTTPS. It doesn’t have support for DNSCrypt though.
Cloudlfare was the first among the lot to introduce DNS over TLS & it persuaded many providers to jump onto the bandwagon. Cloudflare, in its true nature is a reverse proxy which – as mentioned masks IP addresses of users. Cloudflare also supports DNS over HTTPS. Sadly, just like Google DNS it doesn’t support DNSCrypt, but Cloudflare does include DNSSEC which acts similarly to DNSCrypt but still is not so secure.
DNSCrypt is right now supported only on Cisco OpenDNS service.
As of now, there’s no clear winner amongst the two. But if Privacy is all you need – go with Cloudflare DNS as there’s no logs kept for resolving requests.
If Speed is what you need – there’s a tough battle between Google DNS & Cloudflare DNS. Although test result shows Cloudflare edging out Google, your speed may differ from them.