Why did the GoDaddy outage affect my website?



by | September 11, 2012       << Back to Blog    

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Even if your website is not hosted by GoDaddy, your website domain name (i.e. www.mycompany.com) might be registered through them.   GoDaddy hosts about 5 million websites and has over 50 million domain names registered through them.

Domain names are user-friendly names used to address websites and other internet services. However, the actual addresses of these websites and services are numbers called Internet Protocol addresses, or IP addresses.  For example, the actual address of Google (as of the writing of this blog post) is http://74.125.226.224 . Go ahead and click on the IP address link and you will get to Google.  Would you remember that IP address and type it each time you need to go to Google? Of course not! You rather type http://google.com. Imagine trying to remember the IP addresses of each site that you use. This is where user-friendly domain names come to play. Facebook.com, yahoo.com, NBC.com and all the hundreds of website domain names you know actually translate to IP addresses, but luckily we don't have to remember those numbers.  It is sort of like remembering vanity phone numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS instead of the actual number we dial.

There are particular types of computer servers called Domain Name System servers (DNS servers).  These are the servers responsible of maintaining a 'table' that maps domain name to its corresponding IP address.  When you try to access a website, your browser connects to a DNS server which then maps the domain name with the corresponding IP address.  The DNS servers do not host the websites necessarily, they just serve as a type of 'switchboard' that directs you to the site you are trying to reach somewhere else on the Internet.  If something happens to the DNS server that hold the translation for a particular domain to its IP address, your browser will not be able to reach the website using the domain name.  This doesn't necessarily mean the website is 'down' because in reality it is up but you just can't reach it using the domain name.

Who controls the Internet domain names? Can any company be responsible for domain names? These are questions that you may have asked yourself.  This gets into larger topics that I may cover in another post but what I can tell you now is that domain names are 'registered' at a 'domain registrar'. It is similar in a way to registering your car at your local department of motor vehicles.  The domain registrar charges a recurring fee and provides various DNS services for the owner of the domains.  There are a limited number of domain registrars in the world.

Domain name services are more complex than explained here. I hope this gives you a glimpse of how it works.

On Monday September 10, 2012, GoDaddy, the world's largest domain name registrar, experienced an outage that brought its services to a halt making millions of GoDaddy hosted websites and GoDaddy registered domain names unreachable for about 4 hours.   

Official Statement from GoDaddy:
http://www.godaddy.com/newscenter/release-view.aspx?news_item_id=410&isc=smtwlp



About Fernando Sosa
Fernando Sosa is a technology consultant, project management professional, and software developer who helps small businesses and nonprofit organizations make the most of their information technology resources.


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