It's a company's worst nightmare: the website is down, and there's nothing that can be done about it fast enough.

Thousands upon thousands of business owners were put in that position the other day as GoDaddy, one of the world's largest domain registrars, experienced a DNS outage that left countless domains utilizing its DNS servers unresolvable.

Initial reports indicated that the outage may have been the product of a hacker's handiwork, but GoDaddy now claims that it was due to a hardware issue. Either way, the result was the same: lots of inaccessible websites.

While many of the victims of the GoDaddy outage were small businesses, mom and pop operations aren't the only companies that rely on GoDaddy for their DNS.

Take, for instance, Asana, a startup founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, who was the social network's first CTO. It has raised nearly $40m in funding from some of the most recognizable investors in Silicon Valley. Yet it, like a number of other upstarts run by experienced tech entrepreneurs, was using GoDaddy DNS. According to Moskovitz, this was the result of "a poorly thought out decision, made by me, at the very beginning of the company."

The comment by Moskovitz highlights the problem with DNS: it's an easy item to overlook when setting up a website. Many hosting companies and domain registrars provide free DNS to their customers, making DNS a cheap and convenient issue to deal with.

But as GoDaddy's outage demonstrated, DNS is one of the most important links in the hosting chain. A company can do everything right -- from implementing a high-availability architecture to optimizing for performance -- but if users can't get to your website because the domain won't resolve, it's all for naught.

So what should companies do? A few things:

  • Don't put off making a decision. According to Moskovitz, Asana has been planning to move away from GoDaddy DNS, but doing that became a more complicated undertaking as the company's footprint grew. The result: Asana never ditched GoDaddy before disaster struck. The lesson: do DNS right, right away.
  • Remember that you get what you pay for. You don't have to pay for DNS, but as the GoDaddy outage highlights, free can be costly. There are plenty of paid DNS solutions from companies like Amazon, Dyn, EasyDNS and DNSMadeEasy.  
  • Diversify. Technology and Murphy's Law go hand in hand so it's always smart to assume that you'll encounter a worst case scenario eventually. In the realm of DNS, this makes the services of a secondary DNS provider a worthwhile investment. Many of the companies offering paid primary DNS solutions also offer secondary DNS services, so it's easy to find quality providers.
Patricio Robles

Published 11 September, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (4)

Peter Barfield

Peter Barfield, Director at PBS Creative Ltd

To better mitigate this particular scenario a better solution is to configure DNS services across multiple hosts and assign your domain name three or more DNS servers.
Ideally these should also be on different areas of the Internet or be distributed themselves.
(You also do not want to be affected should we lose transatlantic links and all your DNS services are in the states)

I disagree that the reliability of GoDaddy's service should be less than the paid services you suggest. At then end of the day their service IS paid via subsidisation from many domain name sales, they offer free DNS as an incentive to choose them over their competitors in a crowded market.

Given the domain estate GoDaddy has I'm sure they would have taken many precautions to prevent what any ISP knows is such an essential service. It's in the nature of the beast that no solution will ever be 100% reliable or hacker proof.

almost 6 years ago


Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I actually lost all my sites to this and it was a big ear ache. Ironically I was singing Godaddy's praises that very same day!

Luckily for me there is no direct income from them but I can see where people could have lost out.

almost 6 years ago

Andy Killworth

Andy Killworth, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

This also highlighted how, frankly, GoDaddy just suck. Overpriced, awful branding, poor customer service.
Compare that to the company I use for my personal sites hosting, Vidahost, who are a) cheaper and b) have significantly better customer service and c) reliable..

poor effort GD.

almost 6 years ago


Geoff Paddock

While outages and problems can never be totally ruled out, many websites have problems because their owners don't look after the 'boring stuff'. Companies such as Sitemorse provide software that allows users to ensure their websites are available and free of errors at all times, and provides early warning of problems. We are constantly surprised how many major organisations ignore basic errors on their sites until they are faced with major trauma when said sites go down.

almost 6 years ago

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