Early this week, Charter had a major outage affecting most of its customer base. Those who use third-party, non-Charter DNS servers were unaffected.

This is a case where making a performance-related change to your system also makes it more reliable.

I’ve written before about DNS Bench, but let’s talk about how I use that program. There’s not a ton of difference between the 10 or so fastest DNS servers it finds. So what I did was I spread out my DNS settings among three providers. I picked the fastest one, then grabbed the next-fastest one that was run by a different company, and repeated until I had four fast servers from four companies. In my case, I did best with one Level3 server (but not the famous, one Qwest server, one NTT Communications server and one Open DNS server.

That’s what to do if you’re after performance. If you’re after security, use Cleanbrowsing.org’s DNS servers.

This spreads out my risk. Now I’m reliant on my ISP only for the wire, which is what they do best. And I’m reliant on four other companies for DNS. It’s extremely unlikely that all three will have a crippling problem at the same time, which makes my connection much more reliable. It’s probably also faster, because DNS lookups add latency. The faster I get the responses to those lookups, the less time my computer sits idle.

If you just upgraded your Internet connection speed but you’re not quite feeling it, chances are your ISP isn’t giving you a very fast DNS. Change it and I’ll bet you’ll be happier. And if you’re thinking about upgrading, change your DNS first and see if that’s enough.

One note: I hadn’t run this program in several years and it found that two of the four DNS servers I picked the last time around were dead. So it’s not a bad idea to re-run the benchmark every so often to ensure you have four live ones. That said, there’s no need to run it every day. That’s excessive.