I work from home these days, and my nearest office is over 100 miles away, 3 hours door to door if I travel by train (and, to be honest, probably not a lot faster given rush hour traffic if I drive). So I’m reliant on a functional internet connection in order to be able to work. I’m lucky to have access to Openreach FTTP, provided by Aquiss, but I worry about what happens if there’s a cable cut somewhere or some other long lasting problem. Worst case I could tether to my work phone, or try to find some local coworking space to use while things get sorted, but I felt like arranging a backup option was a wise move.

Step 1 turned out to be sorting out recursive DNS. It’s been many moons since I had to deal with running DNS in a production setting, and I’ve mostly done my best to avoid doing it at home too. dnsmasq has done a decent job at providing for my needs over the years, covering DHCP, DNS (+ tftp for my test device network). However I just let it forward to my ISP’s nameservers, which means if that link goes down it’ll no longer be able to resolve anything outside the house.

One option would have been to either point to a different recursive DNS server (Cloudfare’s or Google’s Public DNS being the common choices), but I’ve no desire to share my lookup information with them. As another approach I could have done some sort of failover of resolv.conf when the primary network went down, but then I would have to get into moving files around based on networking status and that felt a bit clunky.

So I decided to finally setup a proper local recursive DNS server, which is something I’ve kinda meant to do for a while but never had sufficient reason to look into. Last time I did this I did it with BIND 9 but there are more options these days, and I decided to go with unbound, which is primarily focused on recursive DNS.

One extra wrinkle, pointed out by Lars, is that having dynamic name information from DHCP hosts is exceptionally convenient. I’ve kept dnsmasq as the local DHCP server, so I wanted to be able to forward local queries there.

I’m doing all of this on my RB5009, running Debian. Installing unbound was a simple matter of apt install unbound. I needed 2 pieces of configuration over the default, one to enable recursive serving for the house networks, and one to enable forwarding of queries for the local domain to dnsmasq. I originally had specified the wildcard address for listening, but this caused problems with the fact my router has many interfaces and would sometimes respond from a different address than the request had come in on.

  interface: 2001::db8:f00d::1
  access-control: allow
  access-control: 2001::db8:f00d::/56 allow

  domain-insecure: "example.org"
  do-not-query-localhost: no

  name: "example.org"

I then had to configure dnsmasq to not listen on port 53 (so unbound could), respond to requests on the loopback interface (I have dnsmasq restricted to only explicitly listed interfaces), and to hand out unbound as the appropriate nameserver in DHCP requests - once dnsmasq is not listening on port 53 it no longer does this by default.


With these minor changes in place I now have local recursive DNS being handled by unbound, without losing dynamic local DNS for DHCP hosts. As an added bonus I now get 10/10 on Test IPv6 - previously I was getting dinged on the ability for my DNS server to resolve purely IPv6 reachable addresses.

Next step, actually sorting out a backup link.