A complaint I hear often is "the Internet is down." Every time someone says that to me, I can't help but picture in my mind computers all over the world stopped in their tracks displaying some type of error.
Email messages no longer bounce from node to node, Netflix accounts stand still with a hourglass spinning and turning, Google searches stall and come up empty.
"What exactly do you mean the Internet is down?" I ask (usually while looking at a fully functioning Internet connection at my desk).
I know that people count on the Internet for so much, but when one facet of the Internet stops working, does it really mean that the whole Internet is "down?"
No, not quite. I imagine it's kind of like dialing a phone number and getting a fast busy signal or a message saying the number you are trying to reach is not available. Does that mean the phone system is down? No, it's just a problem connecting to that phone number.
Or another way to look at it is seeing a road closed sign at the end of the street. Does that mean the entire highway system is down? No, not quite.
When someone calls me and says that the Internet is down, I know I have to do some asking to determine exactly what they mean by that statement. Just what problem do they have exactly to lead them to believe that the Internet is down?
Most of the time, after asking a few simple questions and listening closely to the answers, the problem is one website a caller is trying to access. They click a shortcut and the hourglass starts to twirl until it finally "times out" and displays an error message that the page cannot be displayed, but does this mean that the Internet is really down?
I usually ask them to try accessing another site. If they were trying to access Yahoo.com and got that message I ask them to try Google. If they were trying to access Google then I ask them to try Yahoo.
Usually they are unable to access one page but are able to access the other showing clearly the Internet is indeed "up."
Or maybe it's an email problem. They try to access email but get an error message. Sure I know it's frustrating when something people rely on every day suddenly stops working, but to declare that the "Internet is down" goes a little overboard as the problem is usually not as severe.
So, how does one figure out what is really going on?
Well, there are a lot of tools and techniques out there that can be used to discover the extent of the problem and one of my favorite tools can be used to check the status of a particular site. That tool is called DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com. The idea behind the site is that it is sometimes difficult to determine if a problem accessing a particular web address is a "local" problem (that is, a problem with the "local" computer from which you are trying to access the site) or a problem with the web address you are trying to reach.
When you have a problem accessing a web address, try going toDownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com. If the site opens, then you know right off the bat that the Internet is not "down" but rather, you are having a problem accessing a site (kind of like dialing a phone number and getting a fast busy signal).
If DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com does open, then type in the web address you are trying to reach and hit enter. DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com will try to access that site and display either "It's just you..." if the site is able to access the site or it will display "It's not just you..." if it can't access the site. That little bit of information is invaluable when it comes to troubleshooting a connectivity issue with a web address.
DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com acts like a friend you can call to ask if they can access a particular web site. If it says the problem is "just you" then you can aim your troubleshooting efforts in the direction of your machine.
If the message comes back saying it's not "just you" then you know there is nothing you can do about it from your end and to just wait. That can save a lot of wasted time troubleshooting a problem of which you have no control.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).