Free DNS tool provider adds monitoring, member services

Recent survey shows that about 70 percent of 500 Web respondents' domains are improperly configured and could lead to misrouted e-mails, site outages, and financial or business loss

As e-commerce companies tackle increased traffic and an uptake in Web-site demand during the holiday season, they also might want to consider whether their DNS servers are configured properly.

A recent survey by DNSstuff.com , a provider of free DNS and networking tools, shows that about 70 percent of roughly 500 Web respondents' domains are improperly configured -- a problem that could lead to misrouted e-mails, site outages, and ultimately a financial or business loss. With some 76 million domains on the Web, that percentage is alarming, the company says.

"DNS seems simple like a phone book, there is a number for each domain, but DNS tends to be fragile," says Paul Parisi, CTO of DNSstuff.com. "Because DNS is the fundamental way in which everyone in the universe gets to you or how you get out to everyone, minor and tiny changes to DNS really screw things up."

For instance, DNS is the network function that translates domain names, such as www.networkworld.com, into an IP address, for instance, 65.214.57.165. If DNS doesn't work properly, a user won't gain access to the Web site, and that would become a perceived network failure.

That's why Parisi and his team at DNSstuff.com about four years ago began offering free tools on the company's Web site that let IT managers test their DNS settings. About 1.5 million IT and other managers tap the site's free resources monthly to understand better from an external perspective how their DNS is configured, Parisi says. "It literally causes a panic when DNS changes and it is very difficult to get good information from an external perspective," he says.

While the tools remain free in limited capacity, DNSstuff.com this week is making available advanced options that include a monitoring service that would alert customers of changes to their DNS configurations and provide insight into DNS health for about US$30 per year, per domain, Parisi says. The services lets customers with multiple points on the Internet look out for spam, perform network speed tests and access the quality of DNS configurations.

"This is an option to proactively run tests on DNS instead of trying to troubleshoot the problem after the fact," Parisi says. Customers log in to the site and run some 56 tests and find out aboutconfiguration issues or status. With DNS poisoning becoming more of a threat, the updated services could help customers avoid someone hacking into their DNS, Parisi says.

With the membership option -- which costs about US$36 per year -- customers get access to new tools, such as Zone File Dump, Web-site HTTP Headers and SSL examination. The membership also gives users the option of posing questions to DNS experts on the DNSstuff Forum, more efficient whois lookups, and a higher threshold for IP blocking, meaning that members can perform more and diverse tests with the free tools. In the past the company would block addresses that exceeded the use guidelines for the free tools. It now is clarifying the restrictions between members and non-members.

Customers can access the new tools and sign up for membership here .

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