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When you open your browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Chrome) and type the address of your favourite website, that address has to be converted from an alphabetic string that is easy for humans to remember into a numeric code that uniquely identifies the computer that holds the website you are looking for. In geekspeak, domain name system (DNS) resolution. This code is maintained by 13 computer clusters dotted around the world and then passed on to other servers such as your own Internet service provider (ISP) - the place most people automatically go to get this information.
Maintaining DNS servers costs money, and some ISPs use faster computers than others. If you are unlucky enough to sign up to a poor ISP you may be wasting a second each time you lookup an address. Not much admittedly, but if you multiply that by the number of websites you visit added to your e-mail provider, then multiply that by the average number of foreign references on a page, such as advertisements, the time does become more significant. The good news is that there are DNS providers that are free to use and often faster than your ISP, and changing is easy. Just enter the new address in your computer or router.
I have just run a DNS tester program that I downloaded from CodeProject or Namebench and measured the speed of access to 60 random websites. I did this using my own ISP's DNS server and compared it to those offered by some publicly available options such as OpenDNS and Google. The difference between best and worst websites varied considerably - some taking 11 seconds to resolve. But by comparing the averages for each of the DNS servers I tested I have been able to optimize my own browsing by setting my primary DNS server to 184.108.40.206 and the secondary to 220.127.116.11
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