I (or Someone Else) Can't Access My Website!

If you or one of your site visitors is having difficulties accessing your website, there are a variety issues that could be causing it.  Here are some steps to help pin-point the exact issue. We'll frame this article in terms of "you."  If you are troubleshooting on behalf of another person, particularly someone on a different network, you should use their information/IP addresses/etc.

Generally, the cause of why someone cannot access your website boils down to one of these three things: an Internet connectivity issue, a DNS issue, or an IP that has been banned from our system.

One Quick Test

One quick test is to pull the site up on your phone.  Make sure that you are connecting through your wireless service (and thus are NOT on WiFi).  If your site pulls up, then you know that the Sitemason service is working fine and is visible to the outside world.  In that case, your problem is probably one of the big three issues below.  You may want to skip directly to step 3, because in this case, that is the only scenario we can assist with.

1) Internet Connectivity

The first step in diagnosing connection issues is to make sure that you can access other websites, which will confirm that you have a working Internet connection. A good way to test this is to go to http://www.google.com and perform a search.  If you cannot see search results, then you do not have an Internet connection and this is the reason why you cannot access your website.  You should contact your IT support department or Internet service provider.  Testing other sites is somewhat unreliable, since browsers utilize caching systems.  Performing a live search is a safer alternative.

Sitemason cannot help you solve Internet connectivity issues.

2) DNS Issue

There could be a DNS issue, particularly if your website has recently been moved to Sitemason or is a new website.  DNS changes take up to 48 hours to fully propagate, so be sure that enough time has elapsed since launching your website.  Also, Sitemason will occasionally make server changes that affect DNS.  If your DNS record is set up properly and everything is working properly, any changes will be transparent.  However, if your settings are incorrect, you could have problems.  Please see this support article for details on Sitemason DNS settings.  And if you're in a business environment using a Windows Server-based network, please see the following note.  DNS is not entirely straightforward and also takes time to fully propagate.  Keep in mind that just because you cannot see your website does not mean that the rest of the world cannot see it.  A quick, albeit non-scientific, check is to ask someone else (who is on a completely separate network) to see if they can access your website.

Note for Windows network users

If you are in a business environment that uses Windows Servers and cannot get to your website, check with your IT department to see if the network is using Microsoft Windows Server DNS services (a DNS server within your network).  This product is very popular amongst many businesses and is notorious for caching DNS records beyond their indicated time to live.  If this is the case, your IT department may have to flush the server's DNS lookup cache. We have seen this issue countless times and it is a very likely scenario. Since the problem resides on a server within your network, Sitemason cannot help you fix it, you'll need to talk to your IT department or the server administrator.  They should be able to flush the cache and all will be well once again.

Advanced DNS troubleshooting

If you are familiar with how to use a program called "nslookup," query your website ("nslookup www.example.com").  Sitemason runs a variety of web servers, but the result should boil down to a server at "sitemasonhost.com," which points off to a load balancer.  If you're not seeing "sitemasonhost.com" in the response, then you have a DNS issue.  Specifically, your computer is asking the wrong server to respond with your website and that server is reporting the incorrect answer.

Even more advanced, you can query your domain's authoritative name servers to see what IP address "www" resolves to.  If you do not know your domain's authoritative web server(s), you can use the "whois" command.  Once you know the authoritative name server, you can run a dig command.  Let's assume that the authoritative name server for "example.com" is "ns85.worldnic.com."  This would be the dig command:

dig @ns85.worldnic.com www.example.com

The answer section will tell you what IP www.example.com should be pointing to, according to ns85.worldnic.com, which is the authority for example.com.

These situations are more likely if you run your own DNS server(s).  This is perfectly fine, however Sitemason cannot help you resolve any issues with it/them.

Helpful hint: if your website works from your phone (when it is NOT on WiFi), then DNS is working properly and the problem probably resides on your local network.

3) Banned IP

If the above steps have all checked-out properly, the next step is to see if your IP address was somehow banned by our automated system.  This page will find your IP address and query our system to determine if it is banned or not:

Sitemason® Banned IP Lookup Tool

If your IP has been banned, that tool will allow you to un-ban it.  If you cannot even see the Banned IP Lookup page, then your IP is probably very-recently banned.  Contact Support, or just give it a few minutes.  We stop a LOT of attacks and it will roll off of the immediate ban list momentarily.

Why do you ban IP addresses?

The short reason is: traffic from the IP address was deemed by our automated system to be harmful or malicious.  If you're reading this article and find that your IP address has been banned, odds are that it was not with malicious intent.  The ban on your IP address was most likely caused by one of two scenarios:

1) You or someone on your network is running some sort of robot (link-checking program, site scraper, etc.) that is making requests too quickly.  To avoid being banned, the program should be throttled (forced to make their requests slower) or stopped.

2) You're in a very large organization and have many users looking at the website.  Our algorithm does its best to detect this scenario, but if it does happen, please contact Sitemason® Support and we will work with you to correct the situation.

For some additional details on how and why Sitemason® servers actively analyze traffic, see this post:

"IP Restrictions & Server Security"

Helpful hint: if your website works from your phone (when it is NOT on WiFi), but not from your computer, then your computer's IP address has probably been banned.


- Sitemason® Support Team

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