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What Is a Smart DNS and How Does It Work?

What is Smart DNS

If you often have to deal with geo-restrictions getting in the way of your entertainment, and having to find a way to bypass them, you probably heard how you can use a Smart DNS to do just that.

Well, if you’re a bit new to the topic, or understand what a Smart DNS is to some extent and want to learn more, we’ve got you covered with this informative article discussing everything related to Smart DNS services.

What Is DNS?

DNS (Domain Name System) is a protocol that allows domain names to be translated into IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. Basically, DNS makes it possible for your device to connect to a website by returning the appropriate IP address when you type in the website’s name in your browser.

What Is Smart DNS Technology?

A Smart DNS is a service you can use to access geo-restricted Internet content. It became extremely popular due to the increased use of geo-blocking technology by content providers like Netflix. The service allows you to hide your geo-location, meaning you can watch geo-blocked content from anywhere in the world.

How Does a Smart DNS Work?

When you use a Smart DNS, it will replace your ISP-assigned DNS address (which contains info that can reveal your geo-location) with the address of a new dedicated Smart DNS server. When you’re connected to the server, your traffic will be routed through it.

The Smart DNS server can be located anywhere in the world since the provider uses proxy servers in the country where the content you want to access is available to unblock websites. The new DNS you are provided with will essentially help you unblock websites in all the countries covered by the Smart DNS provider.

DNS Hacking

On top of that, a Smart DNS will also intercept your connection requests to the server you want to access, and replace any data in those requests that can leak your geo-location with new information that points to an “acceptable” geographical location.

So, for example, if you are located in Denmark, where BBC iPlayer is unavailable, a Smart DNS would help make it seem as if you’re accessing BBC iPlayer from the UK, giving you direct access to it.

Yes – using a Smart DNS is perfectly legal. After all, even Google offers access to free DNS server addresses for people who want to change their DNS address. Still, it’s worth mentioning that your ISP might interfere with you using a Smart DNS if they use a Transparent DNS Proxy. But even if that happens, it doesn’t mean that it’s illegal to use a Smart DNS.

However, you must keep in mind that illegal online activities are still punishable by law with or without a Smart DNS.

Smart DNS vs. VPN – What’s the Difference?

Both a Smart DNS and a VPN (Virtual Private Network) are popular methods of bypassing geo-restrictions. The main difference is that a VPN helps you access blocked content by hiding your IP address, while a Smart DNS masks your original DNS address. Other differences include the fact that:

  • A VPN also encrypts your online traffic. As a result, your data is safe from hackers, and ISP and government surveillance, but your speeds might take a hit depending on how strong the encryption is.
  • Since a VPN hides your real IP address, it helps you better mask your digital footprints. A Smart DNS can’t do that.
  • A VPN can help you bypass firewalls at work or school that can prevent you from accessing the websites you want. On the other hand, a Smart DNS cannot bypass firewalls.

Smart DNS vs VPN

Overall, if you really care about getting the best online speeds while accessing geo-blocked content, you should use a Smart DNS. Otherwise, if you want to secure your Internet privacy on top of accessing geo-restricted content, and also be able to bypass firewalls, you should use a VPN.

Does a Smart DNS Impact Your Internet Connection Speeds?

Not at all. Like we already mentioned, a Smart DNS – unlike a VPN – doesn’t use any type of encryption. As a result, you can use your original ISP-provided connection speed to enjoy any Internet content you want.

The Advantages of Smart DNS Services

Besides just helping you bypass geo-restrictions, there are also other perks you get to enjoy if you use a Smart DNS:

  • The service works on most devices.
  • Smart DNS services are usually pretty affordable.
  • A Smart DNS doesn’t slow down your connection speeds.
  • You can access blocked websites from different regions at the same time without having to connect to different servers.

The Disadvantages of Smart DNS Services

There are a few things worth mentioning:

1. ISPs Can Interfere with a Smart DNS

Some ISPs might use a Transparent DNS Proxy, which can force you to use their DNS services instead of the Smart DNS-assigned address you get. Why? Because a Transparent DNS Proxy intercepts DNS lookup requests, and transparently proxies them to the ISP’s own DNS servers.

There’s a way to bypass that issue, fortunately. As long as you have a DD-WRT router that supports IP tablets, you can set up a Smart DNS on it, and direct DNS requests from port 53 (the port used for DNS lookup requests) to port 54. Just type in the following commands in your router firewall:

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -i br0 -p udp –dport 53 -j DNAT –to 8.8.8.8:54

The DNS address used in that example (8.8.8.8) is Google’s public DNS address, but you can freely use your Smart DNS provider’s own addresses (or any other DNS address for that matter).

2. A Smart DNS Doesn’t Automatically Unblock All Websites

With a Smart DNS, websites are unblocked one by one – the service will not automatically allow access to all websites from a certain region. Most popular websites are usually unblocked, though, and if you come across one that isn’t, you can ask your Smart DNS provider to try and unblock it.

3. You Can’t Bypass Firewalls & There’s No Encryption Used

Like we already mentioned, a Smart DNS won’t be able to protect your online identity on the Internet by encrypting your Internet traffic to make it hacker-proof, nor will it be able to help you bypass firewall restrictions (whether they’re imposed at work or school, or are just a form of government censorship) since it doesn’t mask your IP address.

4. You Might Have to Manually Set Up the Smart DNS

This is a minor thing, but you might have to manually configure a Smart DNS if there are no apps available for your device. Normally, you just have to tweak your network connection settings by changing the DNS address assigned to you by your ISP, and by validating your IP address.

Protect your router

While that might seem a bit complex if you’ve never done it before, most Smart DNS providers offer step-by-step tutorials you can follow to quickly configure the service.

As appealing as the concept of a “free” Smart DNS might be, you should know that most free DNS proxies you might find online aren’t reliable. And just to be clear – we’re not talking about free DNS addresses like the ones Google provides, but actual Smart DNS providers who claim to offer free services.

So, what’s the actual problem with free Smart DNS services? Well:

  • Most of the free Smart DNS addresses you will get won’t work – in the sense that they won’t help you unblock geo-restricted content.
  • Free Smart DNS providers can’t really afford to offer decent support (no money for it since services are free, right?). If you ever encounter a problem, you’re on your own.
  • You have 0 idea who is running the Smart DNS proxy you are going to be using. There’s actually a huge risk your personal information (like your IP address, login credentials, and even bank account details) might be stolen. Don’t forget – there’s no encryption to protect sensitive data from cybercriminals.

In the end, a Smart DNS really doesn’t cost that much – at most you’d end up paying maybe around $4-$7/month.

What Is a Smart DNS Provider?

A Smart DNS provider is a company that offers Smart DNS services, allowing you to unblock an extensive list of geo-restricted websites. Usually, they also offer Smart DNS apps for the most popular devices alongside a wide range of features.

In recent years, a lot of Smart DNS providers have started offering access to VPN services alongside Smart DNS services. Many VPN providers have done something similar by adding Smart DNS services to their subscription plans as well.

unblock us netflix

Most Smart DNS providers offer paid services, but there are also providers who offer free Smart DNS services. However, we already discussed why choosing a free Smart DNS isn’t a good idea.

How to Choose the Right Smart DNS Provider

Here are the kinds of things you should be checking out when considering which Smart DNS provider to choose:

  • Unblocked regions – Some Smart DNS providers operate in certain regions only. Make sure the provider you’re considering can unblock content from your desired region(s).
  • The number of unblocked websites – Smart DNS providers usually have a list on their platform of the websites they unblocked. A great provider will also ask you to let them know what other websites you want to see unblocked in the future.
  • Smart DNS clients – Since you likely own more than one device you want to watch geo-blocked content on, you should choose a provider that has working Smart DNS apps for the most popular operating systems and devices. At the very least, the provider should have tutorials showing you how to set up the service on other devices.
  • Additional Services – If you plan on using other services like VPNs and proxies in the future, you should choose a Smart DNS provider who offers additional services in their subscription plans.
  • Dynamic DNS – If your ISP changes your IP on a regular basis, it’s best to choose a Smart DNS provider with Dynamic DNS since – this way – your IP is validated automatically, saving you time.
  • Free Trial and/or Refund Policy – Look for a provider with a free trial or a money-back guarantee so that you can either try out the service before buying it, or at least know your money is safe if the Smart DNS doesn’t work as advertised.

Need a Smart DNS Provider You Can Rely On?

We here at SmartyDNS have got you covered – we offer access to a high-quality Smart DNS service that’s also very affordable. Our servers come equipped with unlimited bandwidth, and we provide Dynamic DNS features too.

And don’t worry – our service is cross-platform compatible. You can easily install our apps on most of your devices, and you can also use our helpful step-by-step tutorials if you want to manually configure SmartyDNS on other devices (yes, our service works on DD-WRT routers).

Unblock Over 290 Websites

We know how important content variety is, which is why we unblocked tons of websites for you already. Have the time of your life with content platforms from countries like:

  • The US
  • The UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Poland

Want Extra Services? No Problem!

Looking to also secure your private data with a VPN? We offer a high-end VPN service that comes with high-speed servers and powerful encryption. On top of that, we also provide DNS Leak protection, and we don’t keep any logs at all.

What’s more, if you ever want to use our VPN servers as proxy servers, you’re more than welcome to do it – we even have setup tutorials for that.

Try Out Our Service Free of Charge

Feel free to test-drive our Smart DNS service before making a commitment – you can do it free of charge for 3 days, and you don’t need to share any credit card details with us.

That’s not all – once you become a SmartyDNS user, we’ll still have your back with our 30-day money-back guarantee.

The Bottom Line

There are various ways you can bypass geo-restrictions, and a Smart DNS is one of the most popular methods. It’s basically a service that replaces your ISP-assigned DNS address with a different address in order to hide your real geo-location.

In terms of perks, a Smart DNS helps you unblock geo-restricted content, lets you enjoy your original ISP speeds, and you can enjoy access to content from different regions at the same time. Regarding drawbacks, some ISPs might be able to interfere with a Smart DNS with a Transparent DNS Proxy, and a Smart DNS doesn’t use any encryption to secure your online connections (like a VPN does).

Overall, if you’re only interested in accessing geo-blocked content while enjoying fast speeds, and aren’t concerned about your Internet privacy, a Smart DNS is a good option.

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