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What to Check When Your Website Goes Down

There are literally hundreds of reasons why a web site could be "offline"; however, just because you can't access the site from your computer doesn't mean that the web site is down, even if you can access other sites.  Here are some simple steps you can take to attempt to diagnose what’s happening with your web site if you’re using a Windows computer.

1) Try accessing the web site without using the domain name.  In many instances, your ISP’s (Internet service provider) name servers will fail.  A name server helps your computer find a web site based on the string of words that make up its URL (for instance, http://www.reachfarther.com).  However, your computer sees that URL as a series of numbers called an IP address and the name server handles that conversion from letters to numbers.  The IP address for http://www.reachfarther.com is 69.0.153.58.  So to see if there is a potential problem with a name server somewhere, try accessing the site using its raw IP address. 

2) If you still can’t access the web site, or you don’t know the IP address for the site you’re trying to access, try “pinging it.  When you ping a web address, your computer attempts to contact the site and reports those results to you in the form of the IP address.  To ping a web address:

a) Click Start
b) Click Run
c) Type cmd
d) The command window will open
e) Type ping, a space, and then the URL of the site you want to access.  For instance

ping www.reachfarther.com

f) you should see a reply containing the IP address of the site you’re trying to contact, and you can then use that IP address in Option 1

3) If you’re still having trouble accessing the web site, you can try a trace route to follow the path your computer takes to contact the web site.  A trace route will show you the servers, routers, and switches that your request for a web site passes through on it’s way from your computer to the web server.  To run a trace route:

a) Click Start
b) Click Run
c) Type cmd
d) The command window will open
e) Type tracert, a space, and then the URL of the site you want to access. For instance

tracert www.reachfarther.com

Once the trace route is initiated, the command window will write a line for every “hop” that your request makes on its way to the web site.  Somewhere along the way, the request may “time out”, and the window will report this.  If this is the case, then there is a problem somewhere else along the way to the web site, and not necessarily with the site itself.  If the “trace completed” message is returned, then the trace route reached it final destination successfully.  This is also very helpful information to have at your fingertips when you do contact your support personnel.

These are three easy steps to help anyone diagnose why they may not be able to access a web site.  We recommend running a trace route against your web site just to see how many machines are involved with providing you with the information you’ve requested.  Good luck, and may your web site never go down!

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