If you're having issues with your network connection, you may need to investigate exactly where the problem is occurring. Maybe your data packets are getting stopped right out of the gate, or maybe it's just a particular route that they're taking that is causing the issues.
A traceroute test shows the exact path that you're taking when you're trying to connect to a specific IP. This information tells you exactly where the breakdown happens, and it can aid you in trying to fix it.
Most operating systems have this tool available:
Mac OS X based systems access this tool through Network Utilities or by using terminal to send a traceroute command.
Windows provides this tool through the command line with the command tracert.
Most Linux-based distributions use the traceroute or the similar tracepath tool to provide you with this information. If you don't want to bother with going through the operating system tools, or if you aren't sure how to navigate a command line or terminal, web-based traceroute tests are available.
For example, WebSitePulse offers a website test through its site. This test performs a traceroute test and shows you every hop that a particular data packet takes to try to reach its destination. No matter where you access this test from, the exact process the computer performs during a traceroute is identical. It creates a number of ICMP echo request packets sent to a specific host or IP address. These packets are sent to the host by a path determined by the router, with alternative hops used if a particular connection times out. You receive specific information on the routers that the data has been sent through, as well as how long it takes for the data to go through. This measure of time is denoted with a response time value. Traceroute tools which use TCP or UDP packets instead of ICMP for their testing are also available.
Note that the route that the packets take may vary every time you try to access a specific host. The routers look for the most efficient path, which may change over time or during different times of the day due to network traffic.
If you identify a problem with the particular route that the data takes, you have a few options on how to fix it. Sometimes entire networks go down temporarily, which makes it difficult to reach a particular portion of the web. Other times the issue is just with the path, and retrying the connection fixes the problem. You can use this information to figure out whether a host is fully down or if the path was just taking you through connections that were not currently working. No matter what specific need you have for it, a traceroute test is a very handy tool to have when you're running into network problems. Whether you're an end user, or a network admin, chances are you're going to be using this tool quite often.
Traceroute testing has a number of parameters you can adjust to fine-tune the diagnostic usefulness of it. You can change the packet types to deal with firewalls, use additional protocols, change the wait-time per hop to see if increasing the timeout time will create a successful connection, and other features. This tool helps to fix bad routing tables and high ping. Even if you don't think you're ever going to use a traceroute test, it's good to know that it's handy if you need it. It’s best to the web-based kind, and since it’s not platform-specific it means you can bring it up on any operating system you want.
Check out the video to get an idea of how the test is performed:
Now, try out the traceroute test tool yourself:
Everyone who operates an online business understands the importance of having fast website response times. When webpages are simple to perceive, the user will spend more time on your pages, and are much more likely to spend money while they are there.
The "end user" or the client or buyer who visits your site, is the entire reason your site was built, and having a deep understanding of how to influence their behavior while on your site can be critical to your business's success.
Fast website response times can also be critical to influencing buying behavior, as your site performance is often judged as a reflection of the quality and competence of your business skills.
To guarantee the fastest possible response times consistently, it is critical to make your measurements of your sites performance in the same way the end user, or customer perceives it. Continuous measuring also helps flush problems to your attention as soon as they arise. The questions to keep in mind while building and testing the site for its highest quality, and keeping it operating at its peak performance capacity are:
How do I measure the customers response time experience?
What tools are available to make the measurement process simple, automated and accurate?
What To Measure and How To Do It
Response time is commonly considered to be the amount of time that passes between when the user requests the first byte of information until the last byte of every image, style sheet or java file scripts are delivered to them.
Network analysis tools are designed specifically for this. Using these tools makes it possible to:
See the downloads within an accurate time-line view
Follow illustrations that accurately demonstrate what is happening for users
When browsers start analyzing response times for content of requested html documents--how can an effective determination of how much time it takes for the first embedded images to download be made? Do you measure the time from the first request for information and the delivery time to the very last request made for site information?
Measuring More than Just HTTP Traffic
Browsers are used for more than simply accessing resources from servers.
Timelines for Browser Activities
Looking at your website response time by getting a timeline view of the same Google Maps request shown earlier demonstrates that the browser started delivering initial HTML documents after 2 seconds.
During the download process of the embedded objects-- the browser renders more content. The on-load event triggered after 4.8 seconds. The browser finished building the initial DOM's for the web page then, which includes reference objects such as images and css.
This means there were different stages of performance and perceived response times.
The "first impression" of speed means how much time it took to see something in the browsers window (aka: time to "first visual"). Measure this by viewing the first drawing activity.
A "second impression" is when the initial page is fully loaded. This is measured by looking at the on-load event triggered by the browser when the DOM is fully loaded. The initial document and all embedded objects are now loaded.
The "third Impression" is when the web site is interactive for the user.
Stop Watch Measuring vs. Tool Supported Measuring
Some use a stop-watch to measure page loading time. It is also sometimes used to measure the time till the page becomes responsive. The watch-measured numbers are placed in a spreadsheet. This makes it possible to determine performance values. This is not the most accurate method, needles to say, there is also a big margin for error.
Using professional website response time measuring tools enables automated web site performance measuring. They are highly effective for manual and automated testing environments. Continuously measuring web site performance in the browser allows the ability to focus on end-user performance. In the end it will determine the success of your website.
For your website to be visible on the internet, your domain name has to be pointed to the name servers of your hosting provider. Visitors are able to access your website using your domain name rather than the IP addresses because of the Domain Name System (DNS).
How does DNS Work?
DNS converts domains names that are understand by humans into IP addresses that are understood by computers. Here is an explanation on domains names and IP addresses.
Domain Name: The text-based name that is used to identify a website or its international location is the domain name. e.g. redwidgets.com
IP Addresses: These are numbers that are used to identify a website’s location or a computer that is connected to the internet. The IP address enables computers to communicate with each other and web servers. An example of the number format of an IP address is 22.214.171.124.
DNS converts the location identifier or domain name that a user enters to the IP address of Internet location or associated website. By using DNS, users can easily remember computer-readable Internet addresses and text-based domains.
How Does DNS Determine the Server to Use?
The information about any domain name is stored in a zone file. A collection of zone files are stored on name severs. When a user searches for a domain name, the server will look into the zone file to determine the name server holding the domain name. For the domain name to be found or be accessible on the Internet, it must be pointing to the name server that has its specific zone file.
Which Name Server Should I Use?
After you have registered a domain name from a domain registration company, you must point it to the name servers provided by your hosting company. If you register your domain from a registrant other than your web hosting company, you will have to change the name servers for the domain name to propagate on the internet.
How to Check Your Name Servers
Sometimes, your website may not be available on the internet due to misconfiguration of the name servers. You can use WebsitePulse Test Tool to not only check your name servers, but also the status of your website, service and network.
To carry out a name server check, simply go to http://www.websitepulse.com/help/tools.php and click on the “DNS” tab. Then, enter your domain name or IP address on the tab box and click on “perform test”. The tool will perform the DNS lookup and retrieve information about your domain. You can use the tool to check whether the DNS records are correct and if your specific domain is associated with the right IP address.
Apart from the hostname name server check, you can also check the following: MX lookup, NS record lookup, Reverse DNS, SPF lookup, and blacklist check. The following is an overview of what each of the options:
Hostname Test: When this tab is selected, the tool will look up the DNS of the hostname or domain you indicate (e.g. redwidgets.com). The query results will also indicate the IP address (e.g. 126.96.36.199) of the domain. The test is usually beneficial when you want to verify whether a particular domain points to the correct IP address or if its DNS records are correct.
MX Lookup: To perform this lookup, enter an email address. When the MX lookup tab is selected, your test will query the MX (Mail Exchange) record for the email address you entered. The result will show the servers and the order in which they deliver emails to the address being queried. The test will also show the IP address and hostname of the Mail Exchange Servers.
NS Record Lookup: When this tab is checked, the query performs a record check of the name servers of the hostname that you enter in the search box. The query results show records of the name servers that have been assigned to the domain.
SPF Lookup: More technical users may want to know the SPF of a domain. The SPF lookup test queries the DNS records and shows the available SPF record of the domain name you are querying. To learn more about SPF, check the official website. SPF is an abbreviation of Sender Policy Framework.
Reverse DNS: Like the name suggests, the query does a reverse DNS lookup for the IP address that you enter. The results show the domain name associated with the IP address.
Blacklist Check: This query checks your IP address at the major DNS blacklists including PSBL, CBL, NJABL, Spamhaus and Sorbs. The results indicate whether your domain has been blacklisted for sending spam.
The concept of the Domain Name System, also known as DNS, can be a confusing subject even to skilled and experienced system administrators. DNS is the system used to abbreviate Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, which are in the form of numbers, to memorable, user-friendly names. These Domain names address systems on TCP/IP networks (e.g. the Internet) by certain Web applications, such as browsers. This system enables computers to communicate using the numeric addresses, and computer users to use simpler names, for example, “www.google.com” and “www.yahoo.com” to call up services including websites and email servers on the internet.
How Domains and the Domain Name System Work
When you type a domain name into your browser’s address bar, your computer (or client) sends the name to a publicly accessible computer called a DNS server. This server contains a database mapping of human-readable names to their corresponding numeric addresses. The DNS server sends back a response to the client computer and informs it of the IP address of the target system you would like to access, thus enabling it to send the request directly to the target. Through a process known as recursion, the DNS server may also request the IP from other DNS servers.
Registration of a new domain name for each new service or department in your organization would obviously lead to substantial costs and maintenance overheads. Fortunately, you can avoid this situation. Subdomains are relatively independent domains that are part of a larger domain. For example, ‘mail.domain.com’ is a subdomain of ‘domain.com’. Typically, organizations use subdomains to separate their different departments or enable separate but related services on the same domain.
About Name Server (NS) Record
Armed with an understanding of how DNS, domains and subdomains work, it is easy to understand the concept of the name server, or NS. When an organization wishes to register a domain, it acquires the services of a domain registrar, most likely either its Internet service provider or its web hosting company. They then check and register the domain name on their DNS system. This system then “propagates” or sends the DNS records related to your domain to the rest of the DNS servers throughout the globe. The provider’s DNS system address is listed as the NS record for the organization’s domain. This means that it is the authoritative system with regards to any changes to the status of the organization’s domain. This also means that the organization is able to assign subdomains to different name servers.
How to Check Name Server Records
There are occasions when you would need to find out the name server records for a particular domain. You can easily accomplish this task by using NS records tools such that query DNS records. A NSLOOKUP is a command-line tool used by network administrators and it requests information about DNS records for a particular domain. A forward lookup receives the domain name or subdomain and returns its corresponding IP address. To carry out a reverse lookup, you have to enter the IP address and the result produces the domain name or subdomain. You can see how such a DNS tool works in the video below.
This video is part of our Monitoring Video Tips series.
How to Get the DNS Server Response Time
You may also need to know the DNS server latency, that is, how long the server takes to serve up IP lookups. This affects the speed at which a particular system can be accessed. A useful NS records tool available for system admins is a tool that can record the request-response times and thus help you select the best DNS server for use on your network and provide your organization and clients faster access to online services.
If you want to see how the different DNS tests work, try them out for yourself in our Test tools section.
You may want to check any given server's response time for any reason, but the most common one is to gain better understanding of the visitor's experience by using an external testing location. Another reason would be to ensure that the site is actually accessible by your clients. By performing a visitor emulation you can determine the status of the server and get additional statistics based on the time it takes for each one to complete.
Usually, a good server response time tool will check the response time of any website, including specific page addresses. The first thing you will need to provide when using a server response time tool is the direct URL to the website (or specific location on the site). Then you can select from any applicable options that may be tested with the tool. As a result the test will go through a process that will verify the server status and downloads the entire content of the HTML on the page and will provide a timed measure of the following:
- Response Time - This is the amount of time that it takes for the server to send a response to the testing location. This variable may be impacted by the distance between the virtual visitor and address of the website.
- DNS - How long it takes to reach the Domain Name System and set the time to live. This helps to ensure that data packets are not cycled indefinitely on the network.
- Connect - The length of time needed to connect to the site session. Longer connect times may cause the time to live to expire.
- Redirect - The amount of time needed to redirect to another location if the site has a redirect command.
- First byte - The length of time it takes the browser to access the first byte of site resources being queried. For testing purposes, this will usually be the HTML content unless a specific file is being accessed on the server.
- Last byte - The length of time it takes the browser to access the final byte of site resources being queried.
- Size - This describes the total size of the data file which was being tested. Most tests will be only accessing HTML content.
You will need to select a testing location to utilize when using this type of tool. Usually presets are available within major cities within various countries. Testing with multiple locations is recommended because it provides statistics which may vary from country to country. This is important for web business owners which may cater to specific locations and require accessibility to their site for these locations. Keeping in mind that some countries may have any range of IP addresses or domains blocked which may cause accessibility issues for these visitors.
You can see how an accurate server response time tool works in the video below.
This video is part of our Monitoring Video Tips series.
It is important to understand that server response time plays an important part in your visitors' website experience. Any issues that go unresolved may cause your visitors to have difficulty viewing your web page or accessing content. Why wouldn't you ensure that website visitors have accessibility and are having a positive experience when visiting your site?
If you want to see this test in action, try it out for yourself in our Test tools section.