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Setting Up Web Filtering for a Network Using OpenDNS (Part 2)

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Eric Geier continues his guide on using OpenDNS, a free Domain Name System (DNS) service that helps provide a safer, faster, smarter, and more reliable Internet. He discusses using the service with Internet connections that have a dynamic IP address. Then he covers how to configure the content filtering, advanced, and customization settings.

In the first part of this tutorial series, we discovered that switching from our Internet service provider’s (ISP’s) DNS servers to the ones provided by the free OpenDNS gives us a safer, faster, smarter, and more reliable Internet experience. The service offers content filtering for an entire network, “faster” Web browsing, and the ability to create Web-based shortcuts to sites.

Since we’ve inputted the OpenDNS server addresses into our router and configured an OpenDNS account, we can continue with addressing the issue of using an Internet connection that has a dynamic or changing IP address. We’ll step through the process of configuring our OpenDNS account to accept IP updates and set up an update client on a computer or the router. Then we’ll discover how to set all the filtering, customization, and advanced features. Let’s get started!

Using a Dynamic Internet IP Address with OpenDNS

As touched on in the previous part, if your Internet connection has a dynamic or changing IP address, rather than a static or permanent one, you must keep OpenDNS up-to-date with the current address. Nearly all residential and many small business Internet connections have dynamic addressing. You can either install a software client—for example, OpenDNS Updater—on one of the computers or use a built-in client that most routers come with to send your IP address changes to OpenDNS. If one of these clients are not set up when your IP address changes (could be every 24 hours or only several times a year), most features won’t work on your network until you go into the Dashboard and change your address manually.

In many cases, downloading and installing the OpenDNS Updater (see Figure 1) is the quickest and simplest way to get started. However, configuring your router for the task has its advantages in the long run. You don’t have to worry about your PC being turned off and the client software not being able to send updates until it’s booted up. Your router is always on and able to send updates. Additionally, you may forget all about reinstalling the client software if you reformat and reinstall Windows.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Downloading and installing OpenDNS Updater.

In order to update your IP address directly to OpenDNS, the update client has to support secure socket layer (SSL) updates; the OpenDNS service only accepts encrypted updates. Not many free software clients support SSL, so you may be limited to using the official OpenDNS Updater program. You’ll also find a limited number of routers have this special functionality. If you find your router doesn’t support SSL updates, you can, however, set your router to send the IP updates to DNS-O-Matic, a free service from OpenDNS, which doesn’t require SSL updates. The DNS-O-Matic service then can forward the updates using a SSL connection to your OpenDNS account.

You can also use this to update an Internet connection’s IP address to multiple services, by just sending the service one update and it forwarding the update to other services. This would be useful if you have a Web server or some other service running on your network where you would like to keep a host name updated with your network’s IP in addition to the OpenDNS service. You can also configure the service to handle more than just one IP address if you are managing multiple OpenDNS networks, which we’ll discuss further in the next part of this tutorial.

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