We've all been there... you are sitting at home and suddenly your life flashes before you.... Your internet is down! What will you do? How will life continue? Is this the end? Just kidding...
Sometimes though - especially if you are a cord-cutter like me losing internet can be a real pain. But, before calling your provider, I'd urge you to arm yourself with some valuable info. It could save you some time and heartache. Before we even start though. understand that this is a 10,000 foot view. This is VERY basic. There are tons of options and things you can do to troubleshoot internet connectivity and network in general. This guide is really designed for you to figure out ONE thing. Is it my provider? Is it my computer? Or is it some other thing out on the internet? In other words, DO I NEED TO CALL TECH SUPPORT? So here we go...
PING to the rescue
PING is an invaluable network troubleshooting tool. It is run from a command prompt or a terminal window. It's function is essentially just like yelling "hey! are you there?" and waiting for a response from the other side. Depending on who you "yell" these calls to - it can help you figure out where your problem is.
To get started, you have to open a command prompt. Do this by clicking your start menu and typing cmd and hitting the enter key. You should be presented with a window similar to this:
Now, we are just going to yell out to google and see if our computer can see them... If not, that's not usually a good sign. So as show below, we are going to type ping google.com and hit the enter key. (for the purposes of this blog post, please only type letters that are in BOLD letters.
As you can see above, google.com IS RESPONDING! You can see Reply from 188.8.131.52 which is essentially google saying "I'm here!" which is GOOD. But let's say you got the response below:
This means you might have a problem. Why? Because google.com might be one of the most reliable sites on the globe. The chances that google.com are down are REALLY REALLY LOW. So now we need to find out where the failure is, because most likely it is NOT google.com being broken. So our next command is called tracert and it will show us more information about where the difficulty is. So we are still going to use google.com for this. So now we type tracert google.com then hit the enter key.
So along the left, we see the HOPS to get to your destination. They go from 1 to 24 in this case. Picture my computer in Florida trying to yell at a computer over on the coast of California. It's not going to be from my computer -> internet -> google.com to get there in 3 hops. No, your traffic crosses all sorts of networks to get to google.com. But if you look along the right you can see:
1 NEEDS-MORE-COWB [10.30.1.1] (This is my Linksys Router and yes my WiFi is called "Needs More Cowbell")
2 192.168.1.254 (This is my provider's modem or router)
3 99-163-68-1.lightspeed.jcvlfl.sbcglobal.net [184.108.40.206] (This is the first hop after my router)
So I'm not going to go through every hop... but what does this command output tell us? Well, see down at line 15? You start seeing * * * Request Timed Out. over and over? This means we have a communication loss at that hop. That hop is FOURTEEN HOPS from your computer. That could be ANYWHERE, in this case that hop happens to be GOOGLE so the drops are happening at GOOGLE. This doesn't mean they are down, but it could mean they are most likely blocking PING across part of the network they own. Most importantly though, it's not really near your house or your home network. So calling tech support on this and having some tech come out to your house is going to be a waste of your time in most cases right? Same thing if this happens on hop #5... that's NOT your computer or your router right? It's off your network. Now, if you get Request timed out on hop ONE or TWO? You might need to reboot your router or routers in my case. Does that make sense? I'm just rebooting the things that aren't "talking" or yelling back on the network that are under my control. Because we can't control hop #15 can we?
So calling your ISP - this could help on a situation where hop #5 is dropping because they might be having an issue on their network. But lets go back to PING for a moment. Because if you ARE getting off your network but some sites aren't working. That is helpful for the tech to know. Like:
I can ping google.com
I can ping usatoday.com
I can ping amazon.com
I cannot ping facebook.com
I cannot ping instagram.com
But I will say as well, check out https://istheservicedown.com for a semi-good look into issues at major sites and providers. This site gets it's info purely from users reporting issues so it's not 100% accurate, but it can be a barometer or a 2nd opinion to look at.
Want to know more about a particular IP address you see in your tracert? Check out: https://www.ultratools.com/tools/ipWhoisLookup
If you enter the IP address, it will tell you owns the network, and it's rough location sometimes.
I hope this stuff is helpful. Hit me with question in the comments if you want.
Did you know that we are in the midst of a huge transformation? This transformation is comparable to when electricity was made available to the common American household. It has been coming for years, and you need to know about it - and how it affects your company if you’re going to stay competitive. Have you heard the term “Cloud Computing”? If you haven’t, and you own a business, then it should be on your radar.
According to Wikipedia, Cloud computing is “Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility.” How does this affect you? Read on!
How Did We Get Here?
Before there was electricity, many businesses ran their machines off of water, wind or even human power. If you manufactured something, you might have had a building next to a stream. That building might have had a water wheel that caught the water and turned gears that might power a machine (or several machines) inside the building. Back then you had to provide your own power to run your equipment.
Then came the discovery of electricity. Soon after, tools arrived that would run off the electricity, however, most companies had to produce their OWN electrical power if they wanted to run these tools. This was not cheap and usually meant that only larger companies had the means to build the infrastructure needed to create their own power. Electricity was unreliable and these tiny “power generation plants” needed their own staff to run and keep everything maintained. Companies found themselves not only in the business of producing their products, but producing electricity as well. One relied on the other in order to happen.
By the early years of the 20th century, manufacturers didn’t have to be in the power generation business anymore. They could run their tools from power produced in power plants that were usually far away. The electricity was delivered to them on a grid or network of supply cables. Remarkably, the power companies took over the generation of electricity very quickly. Soon, the tiny power stations that companies were maintaining became obsolete.
By supplying electricity to so many people at a time, the power companies achieved an economy of scale that no private company could match. It became a competitive necessity to hook their factories up to the power grid to stay in business. Soon it was possible even for households to afford to hook up to this power grid.
New Frontiers but a Similar Path
Today we are in the midst of another transformation, and it’s following a similar path. What happened so many years ago to the generation of power is now happening to the processing of information.
In the early years of this revolution, we had mainframes. Big companies were the only ones who had the means to staff a data center and to purchase computing power. Users would bring punch cards to the mainframe and were charged for processing time.
Later generations saw personal computers enter into business. However, not everyone got a personal computer (PC) - maybe only the number crunchers or accounting department had them. Soon enough, more people had them and we found out that we could share things and be much more efficient if we connected the PCs together.
We saw businesses install their own computer networks and servers so that all the PCs could have a central data repository. As these networks and systems grew, it became necessary to manage these systems. Companies hired internal technology staff to maintain the systems. Today, most businesses are not just in the business of producing their products. Surprisingly, they are also in the technology business as well. They have email servers, accounting systems, and all manner of systems to keep the business running smoothly. Does this sound a bit like the companies that had to be in the power business in order to be in the manufacturing business?
Enter the internet - “The Cloud”. First there was dial-up. It was slow and painful and it made the internet almost a novelty at first. But, just like electricity, economies of scale kicked in along with Moore’s Law(1), and internet speeds have gotten faster and faster as the years have passed. This has resulted in costs coming down so that bandwidth has become more and more available, for less and less money. Now most households in the USA have access to relatively inexpensive broadband (high-speed) internet. It has almost become a utility.
Do You Really Care How Technology Works?
When you really think about it, these days most people don’t care about how technology works - they just care that it actually DOES work. Do you care what brand of cabling Florida Power & Light uses? Do you care if the servers at your telephone provider are Dell, HP, or IBM? Do you care how much hard drive space the servers at Google.com have, or if they run Windows, Mac, or UNIX? Of course not! You only care that when you plug your lamp in, check your voicemail, or type your words in Google’s search box, IT WORKS. Right?
We are entering an age where computing is becoming as much a utility as Florida Power & Light. Sooner rather later, much like the companies at the turn of the century, you too will need to take advantage of the economies of scale that “Cloud Based” computing companies offer in order for you to stay competitive.
You May Already Be Using Cloud Computing
One of the best examples of Cloud Computing most use every day is email. How many of us have an email account for personal (or business) use that ends with gmail.com, yahoo.com, aol.com, or hotmail.com? For years companies like Yahoo, AOL, Google, and Microsoft have given away email accounts for free. This has allowed them to serve advertising to users in exchange for these free accounts. These companies have learned how to provide email on a scale not seen by ANY of even the largest enterprises. Economies of scale are truly being realized. These companies are serving millions of mailboxes, and they have become very adept at it. When was the last time your Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail account was not available? It’s usually just there, right?
This is where you ask yourself as a business owner; “Why would I have my own email server when Google and Microsoft do it so much better, and for so much cheaper?” Both of them now offer business class cloud based email systems using your company’s domain name instead of Yahoo.com, aol.com, or gmail.com. Currently, cloud based email solutions come in at around $5-$15 a month per mailbox depending on which one you choose. There are several well known studies that say it costs the average business about $20-$25 or more a month per mailbox for an internal email system.
If you have a 20 user network and you are hosting your own email, using the numbers above, it could be costing you $5000 a year to host that internal system. Does $5000 sound impossible? Consider this: How much did you pay for the server hardware? How much for the software? What about SPAM filtering? How about the system you use to back it all up each night? How much electricity does it use? How much did you spend on the consultant you use to maintain that server? How much do you spend on that same consultant when you have a problem and need tech support? What about the money you spend paying your employees when there is a problem? Now consider that every few years you have to rip it all out and upgrade to the next new version, and start it all over again.
Now let’s consider that same 20 user office? Except instead of running their own internal email system, they are running Google’s cloud based E-mail system. That same company is spending about $1500 per year for that service including consulting time. They are NOT buying software, hardware, or upgrades every three years. They are not paying for any maintenance on the servers, or security updates. They are not paying for nearly as much consulting time either, because Google’s cloud based email has a 99.999% uptime rating which translates to less than 10 minutes of downtime each YEAR. In other words, if you re-boot your servers ONE TIME over the course of a year, you are not at 99.999% uptime.
If you do the math, you will quickly see that if you are not willing to consider a cloud based solution, you are going to be spending a lot more than your competitor might be if he does. If your competitor across town is using cloud computing they will have less overhead, and might be able to charge less for their services.
Not Just E-mail
But cloud computing is not just for email. There are cloud based applications for almost every aspect or service that one might have on an internal corporate network. There are accounting applications, customer relationship management systems (CRM), payroll, human resources management, file storage and backup. The list goes on and on.
Cloud computing, however, is not panacea. It’s not for everyone or every situation. There are some things that may not EVER be in the cloud. The decision to move in that direction should not be taken lightly. There are quite a few considerations to take into account before making the leap.