As you may have heard, DynDNS is shutting down its free plans, which is a bit of a bummer. Still, those plans are not the only option if you need a hostname to use to access your home computers from anywhere, and you don't want to spend money for it. Here are some alternatives.
To be fair to the folks at DynDNS, $US25/year isn't a lot to ask if you have something set up at home that you like to access on the go, such as a Plex server for streaming media or a personal cloud with all of your important files. Still, just because you can spend a few bucks doesn't mean you have to, especially if all you need is the most basic service. Here's a selection of alternative options if you're lamenting the loss of your DynDNS account.
Check To See If It's Free
You'd be surprised how many web hosts offer dynamic DNS services for their hostnames as part of your hosting packages. If you have a VPS (Virtual Private Server) with a company like Linode, or are using shared cloud computing services like Amazon Web Services or Digital Ocean, they all offer it in some form or another. Amazon has Route53, for example, and Google has Cloud DNS.
They're not alone by any means -- a quick Google search for your hosting provider and "dynamic DNS" should turn it up if it's available as a feature. That way you can run the dynamic DNS service on the web server you're already paying for, have it point to your home computer or router, and then set the polling time accordingly.
Obviously signing up for a host just to take advantage of these services doesn't make sense, and in some cases the dynamic DNS services aren't free even to current customers, but if you already use them for another purpose, it may be either included with your plan or a minimal added cost.
ckDNS is a simple, easy dynamic DNS service that is hosted on Amazon's EC2, and supports virtually every operating system, including routers that are running the DD-WRT open firmware. It's free, it's fast, and it was built and is maintained by a team of people who do it for the love - the service even masks your hostname from reverse lookups, which is a nice touch and much appreciated. You can read more about it in the FAQ here, or just sign up and download clients for Linux, Windows, OS X, the Raspberry Pi, DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWRT, pfsense, Android, and others (yes, there's more).
DtDNS offers both free dynamic DNS services for individual users looking for hostnames that match up with their IPs, and paid services for people who may have a domain name they want to point at their home router or a server on their home network. DtDNS supports wildcards in your dynamic hostname, so if you have myhouse.dtdns.net, you can add myroom.myhouse.dtdns.net and it will still work. DtDNS will post an offline message if the computer you have behind your hostname is offline and not responding (or your internet connection is out), and multiple DNS servers in different locations to ensure reliability and quick DNS propagation to anyone who might need to connect -- or you, wherever you may roam. You can read more about the service's features here.
No-IP is one of the most popular DynDNS alternatives, and is often the first choice for DynDNS switchers. It offers all of the same features, with global DNS servers for quick and accurate propagation, URL and port 80 redirects (so you can redirect visitors to a working port if, for example, your ISP blocks port 80). It also supports up to 3 hostnames for your dynamic IP address,. It's just about everything you need -- the one limitation is your hostname expires every 30 days and will need to be regenerated (hey, it has to do something to make you want to sign up for the paid plans). The managed DNS services, if you do want them, start off cheap and come with lots of features.
Another great, simple and free dynamic DNS option, yDNS is another service run by someone who wanted a free service for their own use, and kindly opened the doors to anyone else looking for a similar option. It's free, and according to the service FAQ, it always will be. It supports IPv4 and IPv6, and while it will take a little more manual work and setup than some of the other sign-up-and-download utilities here, it's well worth it if you can do it yourself.
FreeDNS offers way more features than you have any reasonable right to expect from a free service. It already has over a million members, and a couple of thousand premium members who keep the service afloat for the rest of us. FreeDNS offers completely free dynamic DNS hosting, and even static DNS hosting if you need it, for personal or home use, or to use alongside a domain or subdomain that you already own. Free users get five domains to use, 20 free subdomains, super-fast propagation (mostly thanks to all of the zones they have available), and offline message pages in case your internet connection drops or the host you're pointing to is offline. You can read more details in its FAQ here before signing up.
EasyDNS is more than just free dynamic DNS -- if you've ever wanted to manage your own DNS entirely, it's a free service for everyone that will let you do it. You can use EasyDNS to point a hostname at your home IP address, but you can also use it in conjunction with your web host to control your own domains and records without relying on your host to manage them all for you. You can manage as many domains and subdomains as you want down to whatever level of detail you prefer. Set custom records for each and point your domains anywhere you want them to go. Normally all of that power would come with a price, but amazingly, EasyDNS is completely free.
Zonomi offers free DNS hosting for one hostname, so if you're setting things up just for your home internet connection, it may be all you need. If you have multiple connection to set up, need multiple hostnames, or want to get into more advanced territory, prices start off around $US10/year. Zonomi accounts come with instant updates, wildcard domain names, and the ability to leverage domains that you use with the registrar you already have. Best of all, you don't have to do too much work on your end to make sure your hostname works with your IP address -- it's easy to sign up, and easy to set up.
If you feel like getting your hands dirty with an open-source, and self-hosted and managed solution, Hopper is the way to go. It works well, comes highly recommended, is developer friendly, and is completely free. That said, it may be overkill for people who are looking for a click-and-go solution, but if you want more control, this is a great option.
Know of another good option we haven't listed? Tell us about it in the comments.