I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up.
Tom Lehrer

What to do when you can’t see your web site

You may get a variety of error messages, eg. “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage”, “No connection to server” etc. which are not very helpful. These are the common causes of such errors:

  • Human error (typo in the web address)
  • Local connection problems
  • Hosting server / connection problems
  • Firewall blocks
  • Bad routing
  • Hosting DNS errors
  • Local DNS failure

And here’s a step-by-step guide to help diagnose these problems:

  1. Have you lost your connection to the internet? Try a search on Google. If you can’t access Google then you almost certainly have a local connection problem (because Google is hardly ever unavailable!) . If it works then continue…
  2. Did you type in the address correctly? Just to be on the safe side, search for your domain on Google (see above!) and click on the link there. Still not working? Then let’s continue…
  3. Is there something wrong with the hosting DNS? Check your domain name at DNSReport. If this shows significant errors (shown in red) contact your host; if not, take note of the IP address for your web site, a group of four numbers, something like 172.31.255.255.
  4. Can you connect to the IP address? Type “http://” and then the IP address as noted above into your browser url bar (or copy and paste it). You may see a web site there that isn’t yours, since multiple sites can share the same IP address – this is normal. If you see any web site then you are able to connect to the server and the problem lies with your own DNS service – this is very common. See solutions for local / ISP DNS issues. If you can’t connect using the IP address then continue…
  5. Can you view your site through a public proxy server? You can find many of these with a Google search. (Note – I don’t endorse these sites and strongly advise you to not use any of them for passing private information, but they are useful for testing). If you can’t access your web site through the proxy then most likely the server is down or there’s a problem with the datacenter network – either way, contact your host. If you can see your site through the proxy then continue…
  6. Try again to access your web site directly – intermittent faults are common (and very hard to diagnose) so it may have come back while you were running through the tests above. Still not working? Ok, lets continue…
  7. Are you blocking your host? Software / firewalls on your local network can sometimes block access to certain IP addresses, or ranges – check what’s running on your system, particularly if you’ve recently installed new security software.
  8. Is your host blocking you? This often happens automatically, eg. if you enter an incorrect password a few times the server may see this as an attack and block you. If your internet connection uses a dynamic IP address you can change it by disconnecting for a few minutes and then connecting again. Check your own IP address by visiting WhatIsMyIp. If you can’t change it (you may have a static IP address permanently allocated to you) then contact your host and ask them to check whether their firewall is blocking you.
  9. Is your ISP blocking your host? Give them the IP address / domain name of your web site and ask them to check, or try connecting by a different connection method (eg. dial-up) – this will also give you a different IP address.
  10. Still going? If you haven’t managed to diagnose the connection problem by this point then it’s a either a routing problem (traffic from your ISP to the hosting server is getting lost en-route) or someone – your host or your ISP – has given you incorrect information. At this point a traceroute and reverse traceroute may help to diagnose the problem, but this is outside the scope of this document – please ask for expert help!

This guide is intended primarily as a self-help worksheet for Internet Lynx / Burst!Open clients. If you’re a client and the notes above indicate you should contact your host, please contact me as soon as possible – I will immediately resolve any issues at the hosting end. If the problem lies with your ISP or local network then feel free to contact me anyway – I’ll try to talk you through the process of fixing it.