On Tuesday morning tweets began to appear about GoDaddy customers having trouble accessing their sites. By around 11am, www.godaddy.com was completely down along with ALL of GoDaddy’s associated services. The @godaddy Twitter account posted an update about the issue but dramatically understated the gravity of of the situation. Every single service that GoDaddy offers had failed, from web hosting and email to DNS and their domain registration service – everything was offline.

As the day went on, @AnonymousOwn3r, the security leader for Anonymous claimed responsibility for the outage:

The reason the reason the outage was so disruptive and effected so many people was that GoDaddy’s DNS servers as well as their “Domain Management” panel were both knocked offline. Because of this, customers that were only using GoDaddy for DNS still couldn’t access their servers and their email wasn’t being delivered.

DNS? Registrars? What now?

Domain Name System (DNS) is the technology that allows your computer to take a domain name like setfive.com, retrieve an IP address like 64.22.80.79, and then access a server at that IP address for various services (web server, email, etc.). DNS isn’t an Internet specific technology. It can be used on an intranet to allow canonical names to be specified for resources, like naming your internal file server “file cabinet” which is translates to 192.168.1.102.

What allows DNS to work at Internet scale is the system of domain name registration organized by ICANN which allows “registrars” like GoDaddy to sell domain names. Then, domain names require specific “nameservers”, designated by a register, which allow clients to perform DNS lookups which is the translation of domain names to IP addresses.

What made today’s GoDaddy incident so bad was that most people had used GoDaddy both as a registrar and for the DNS. Consequently with GoDaddy’s DNS down and their registrar web panel also down, customers had no way to mitigate the DNS outage since they couldn’t access the registrar panel to change their nameservers.

Where is the lemonade?

For the most part, at least for top level TLDs (.com, .net, .org), registrars are basically identical and make the bulk of their money on other services. DNS service providers definitely are not identical and after today’s prolonged outage, GoDaddy’s infrastructure seems to have significant issues.

So where to turn? Well first check out this awesome write up posted by jread on Hacker News. The write up is long but it has a detailed analysis of the benefits of the various managed DNS offerings as well as their performance characteristics.

On the whole, if you’re using Amazon’s AWS offering for web hosting it probably makes the most sense to migrate your DNS over to their Route53 offering. If you aren’t, Dyn looks like an attractive offering for mid-sized sites.

If you decide to move to Route53 check out Migrating from GoDaddy DNS to Amazon Route 53 for a good walk through on how to make the switch.