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Dynamic DNS: is it still useful, or is it now irrelevant?

March 27th, 2018 by Kevin Bowyer

Dynamic DNS

Over 10 years ago I wrote about Dynamic DNS (DDNS), asking if you really need a static IP address if you want to access your camera or CCTV system from the Internet. The answer was ‘no’, because of the ubiquity of Dynamic DNS services which were, at that time, starting to become embedded in camera firmware. Similarly, IP camera manufacturers were beginning to offer their own DDNS services which made life a whole lot easier for end users.

As DDNS is now a mature technology, is it still useful and relevant today?

In surveying our technical support team it’s clear that the answer is yes, DDNS is still used and needed. To understand why, let’s look at what DDNS is.

What is DDNS?

DDNS is a means by which accessing your network from outside your business becomes possible even when your external IP address changes. With a DDNS address you have a fixed hostname such ‘mybusiness.axiscam.net’ which points to your router’s external IP address. If that IP address changes, either the camera, router, or a piece of software can update the DDNS hostname to point to the new IP address.

Why might you want to access your network from outside? Perhaps you have a camera you want to view when on holiday or a security system you want to keep an eye on when out of the business, there are many reasons why this is useful. More and more devices can be monitored via the internet as our homes and business become more connected and the Internet of Things grows.

IP addresses are in short supply, meaning that ISPs (your internet provider) cannot just dish them out, they need to be rationed. The way they do this is to give all customers a dynamic IP address, effectively changing the public IP on your router frequently – perhaps every day, perhaps every week or perhaps each time the router is restarted. Unless you specifically request a static IP (and can justify it) or use a business-class ISP, such as Zen Internet, you will get a non-permanent dynamic IP address as the public interface to your network. This is no bad thing of course and intrinsically creates a level of protection for your network.

Getting a static IP address can be a difficult process with consumer ISPs, such as BT and TalkTalk, but it can be done, though usually for a significant cost.

Given that most home and many business connections have a dynamic IP address there is still a need to create a permanent method to access the local resources when this is required.

Cloud-based CCTV

One technology which is offers this and is conversely taking us away from DDNS is cloud-based CCTV.

Often, cameras come with a cloud viewing or recording service which the manufacturer or a third party provides to the end user either free or at a small cost. These kinds of service often require little setup or technical know-how and rely on a technology known as ‘http tunnelling’ to connect the camera with the cloud platform. Because http tunnelling is initiated from inside the network it requires no port forwarding and no DDNS. The act of tunnelling gives the cloud provider a route back into the device which made the network connection (but not the wider network). Data such as video streams can be encapsulated so they can easily pass through the home or business router and across the internet to the provider with http tunnelling.

We, for example, offer hosted CCTV services through Morphean which use this technology.

Alternative remote access methods

Other methods for remote access include DDNS built into the camera itself, plus the multitude of online DDNS providers such as Dyn and No-IP. Free DDNS is becoming harder to find, but is still possible, though may require regular confirmation by clicking a link to confirm you still want the service say, every 30 days or so.

Most routers will support one or more of the most well-known DDNS providers and this should be your first choice for setting up DDNS if available.

Security concern?

One manufacturer recently discontinued their built-in DDNS service due to cyber security concerns. Security is of course a very serious issue and it is important to understand that DDNS is not in itself a security risk and does not itself introduce vulnerabilities to a network. However, the port forwarding methods and firewall updates that go along with it in most cases can expose vulnerabilities if not done correctly so always proceed with caution when using port forwarding or changing firewall rules once you have your DDNS set up.

In summary, DDNS as a technology has changed little in 10 years and the reasoning behind the technology and the case for its necessity remain virtually the same. Which is why the NW tech support team see DDNS as a highly valued and necessary service.

You can read the original article on do I really need a static IP address here.

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