You’ve probably experienced a situation when the Internet was down — you couldn’t get online and you couldn’t get to your blog or website. So how is the Internet down? Isn’t someone making sure this can’t happen? Can the Internet really go offline and take your website down with it?
Let’s take a look at how it works when there are Internet outages and what you can do to make sure your own blog or website stays up and running…
- 1 The Internet Is Lots Of Different Networks Connected Together
- 2 Small Regional Outages Can Hit Locations That Aren’t Well Connected
- 3 Large Websites And Good Hosting Providers Protect Themselves From Outages
- 4 The Internet Isn’t Just One Network That Can Go Down
- 5 What About When Lots Of Big Websites Are Down At The Same Time?
- 6 Is Your Own Website Going To Go Down?
- 7 So, Really, How Is The Internet Down?
The Internet Is Lots Of Different Networks Connected Together
The basic design of the Internet essentially ensures that no single network outage will be felt by everyone. There are many companies that run Internet “backbones” — networks designed to carry traffic from the end-users to the websites they want to reach. All of the backbones are interconnected so there are virtually unlimited ways data can get from one place to another on the Internet.
Backbone providers include big cable TV companies, phone and wireless companies, specialized backbone network companies, network non-profits, government agencies and even some hosting providers.
There are some companies — like big cable TV companies — that control really large backbone networks. If those backbone networks have an outage there can be short-term ripples out to other Internet-connected networks. But when that happens the traffic that was going across one backbone gets moved to another backbone fairly seamlessly. That’s a key part of how the Internet is designed and how it works.
Of course if you get your Internet access from one of those same large backbone providers — like from your cable TV company — and that company has a network outage there’s not much that can be done for you until they fix it. It’s the same for any situation where “Network X” is your only connection and “Network X” has an outage.
Small Regional Outages Can Hit Locations That Aren’t Well Connected
There can be small regional outages which are location specific. That can happen if, for example, you live in a smaller town and there’s only one telecom building where all of the various networks are connected to provide access to that town.
If the power goes out at that one building — and there are no backup generators — then anyone in that town connected to that building will lose access. But those kinds of facility-specific outages don’t have any significant impact on the larger backbones of each company or of the Internet as a whole.
Those kinds of local outages don’t cause websites to go down unless your site is hosted with a very small web hosting company that’s only connected to that building.
Large Websites And Good Hosting Providers Protect Themselves From Outages
Companies that run large websites — like Google or Facebook — are directly connected to multiple Internet backbones. If they lose a connection that routes through one company’s backbone then their traffic is also moved over to another company’s backbone and it happens fast.
Good web hosting providers also connect to multiple backbones so even smaller sites — like yours — are protected from single network outages.
If your website is hosted on a local provider that only has one Internet connection it’s a very good idea to switch to a mid-sized hosting provider like this one that’s connected to multiple backbones. That’s the most effective ways to protect your own website and make sure it won’t go down.
The Internet Isn’t Just One Network That Can Go Down
In many ways you can think of the Internet just like the highway system. If a road is blocked in Illinois then that traffic may need to reroute through Indiana until it’s fixed — but traffic in New York or Nevada or Montana won’t notice it at all.
What About When Lots Of Big Websites Are Down At The Same Time?
There are outages that can happen with services that run on top of the Internet. Things like DNS which controls domain names. But those services are largely distributed across different companies, servers and networks as well so they have similar patterns — if one Internet provider’s DNS servers go down then their customers would see issues, but people using someone else’s DNS servers wouldn’t.
Then there are situations where lots of companies all use the same servers to offer their services. An example would be how many companies host their websites on servers run by Amazon. If Amazon has a big outage with their web servers many other companies will have their sites go down too. It may seem like a lot of the Internet is down, but it’s not. The Internet itself is working fine and traffic is going from place to place. It’s just those web servers — and the websites using those servers — that see a problem. Everyone else’s web servers are still up and running.
Even an outage at a big web hosting provider like Amazon only causes issues with a tiny percentage of the sites on the Internet.
To stick with the highway analogy, an Amazon web server outage would be like if lots of trucks were picking up products from the Amazon warehouse and that warehouse had a power outage and stopped loading the trucks. All the companies — and their customers — who were waiting for those trucks would feel that situation but the highways themselves would still be operating normally.
Is Your Own Website Going To Go Down?
Like Facebook and Google, good web hosting companies are connected to several Internet backbones. If there is an outage with one backbone the traffic moves right over to another backbone.
If you’re using a medium sized dedicated web hosting company like the one I recommend, the chance of your blog or website going down because of an outage on the Internet is very small. Even if your own Internet connection is having a problem your website is up and doing its thing.
So, Really, How Is The Internet Down?
Next time your own computer goes offline and you think, “How is the Internet down again??” — it’s not. It’s probably just a problem with your own Internet connection or it’s something happening on an Internet backbone that will be automatically resolved in a few seconds. Luckily for all of us the entire Internet going down is more of a movie plot than something that should keep us up at night.