what to do when server is down
We’ve all been there: A website refuses to load, returning a generic “website is not available” or “URL was not found on this server” error instead. Or a website hangs, never loading all the way. Or maybe you’ve been frustrated when trying to access a local application server, leaving you wondering what the problem might be. The question then becomes whether the issue is with the computer, the network, the site that you can’t reach, or with your internet service provider.
Troubleshooting connection issues and server down issues
Many variables can cause network issues, often making finding the root cause of problems difficult. But there’s good news: You can use many free network troubleshooting tools to help you identify where the problem is, and what your next steps should be. Whether you’re a home user with just a couple of devices or an IT professional who manages hundreds of PCs, you can benefit from the following tools:
Ping: a tool that checks if a server, website, or device is “alive” and responding
Ping is a simple, widely-used software utility that checks if you can reach a website or networked device (whether that’s a PC, smartphone, server, or Wi-Fi enabled coffee pot) and measures how long it takes to get a response. Because computer networks are not 100 percent reliable and data delivery isn’t always guaranteed, ping also measures how many data packets get lost on the journey to and back from the device you want to contact. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because ping is used by sites like “Is it Down Right Now?” and by advanced network monitoring software (which we’ll talk about in a later section) to get data to display in their dashboards.
Windows and Linux both come with the ping utility — no application download necessary. To use the tool, simply open a command window then type “ping” followed by the computer name, IP address, or website URL you want to reach (for example “ping google.com”). Because the application runs on your computer, ping can also be used to check the availability of devices on your local network, which is one major advantage it has over sites such as “Is it down right now?”. Fun fact: The ping tool was named after the sound sonar makes because they both work by sending out a signal, then listening for an echo reply.
Traceroute: a tool that can help you pinpoint where a connection is broken
The appropriately named traceroute utility helps you trace and map the route data packets take when they travel from point A to point B. Traceroute is available as a command line utility on most major operating systems (Windows, OSX, Linux). If the tool runs successfully, this commands returns an ordered list of the routers your data passed through on the way to its final destination.
If you’re experiencing connectivity issues, the tool can help you locate where in the chain there’s a a problem, and you can debug further from there. While a text-based version of the tool is available on both Linux and Windows (tracert), graphical versions of the tool can provide more reliable results, visually map out the path packets take, and continuously monitor changes in a route over time.
Website Down Check: How to see if a website is down or responding slowly
If you want to dig deeper to discover how quickly web servers are responding, the site Isitdownrightnow.com monitors the current status of popular websites such as Outlook.com, Gmail.com, Dropbox.com, YouTube, Facebook, and more. If a site you want to reach isn’t already being tracked by the tool, you can also enter a custom URL to view it’s status. Users can also report website problems they’re experiencing with websites, so you can get better insights into what’s going on with your favorite services.
Network monitoring software: keep an eye on all your critical devices, websites, and services
A server can go down for many reasons. Maybe a physical machine loses power, or perhaps the operating system or network card experiences an issue — many variables can cause a failure. If you’re an IT professional that needs to look after many servers and websites, you have a lot to keep track of.
Manually checking dozens of devices and servers constantly is tedious (and the stuff of migraines). If one fails, you might not know until someone frantically bangs on your door. A network monitoring solution provides real-time insights for all of your servers, whether they’re located in-house or you access them through the internet, and can alert you at the first sign of trouble.
Network monitoring software can also automate “ping checks” to see if a server, VoIP phone, security camera, or any other device is online and responding. Additionally, your network monitoring tool can display the status of your local and external devices in a customizable dashboard.
Additionally, network monitoring software utilize protocols like SNMP, SSH, and WMI to measure (among other things), server CPU, disk, and memory usage, network switch bandwidth utilization, and the performance of individual applications. More importantly, you can configure network monitoring software to send alerts to many people whenever something is amiss, so you and your IT team can stay in the know and rapidly respond to issues.