If a site cannot be accessed quickly or takes more than a few seconds to open a page, then you are likely to give up.  I know I do.  There are many reasons you will see these problems. They can be grouped into categories:

  • Server problem
  • Internet Connection problem
  • Firewall Problem

Server Problem

Believe it of not, a problem with the server is the least likely.  That would generally mean that there is a hardware problem - like a failed disk drive.  The symptoms to the users would be the same as the other causes but technicians at the data centre would know and there would be no other servers having a problem at the same time.  I have never seen a problem in this category although I've suspected it several times. It's safe to say that this kind of problem is rare.

Internet Connection problem

There are two kinds:

  • Very short term - less than 30 seconds:
  • Long term - slow or no response for hours

Very Short Term
Outages or slowness is common and is generally caused by a less than perfect Internet.  Traffic or temporary node problems cause some routes to be slow or unresponsive.  Cobourg Internet subscribes to the Monitis server monitoring service and the responses from several locations are monitored.  With a check every minute of every day, there is a dropout every few days or so from one of the monitors.  But never simultaneously.  That means that the server and data centre are OK but that the particular route taken from that location has a problem.

Long Term
If the problem is with just one or a few users, then their Internet Service could be at fault or it could be a firewall problem.  But if many are experiencing the problem, then the most likely cause is a connection inside the data centre.  This in turn is most likely a hardware or software problem in a large router in the centre.  The symptoms will be that many users are effected and it will therefore get priority attention from the data centre operator.  Cobourg Cloud is located in Houston Texas and operated by the large corporation, Endurance International.  In my experience, this has been the largest cause of outrages - especially if it's more than a second or so.  There's not a lot users or Cobourg Internet can do except complain to Endurance International and monitor the situation.  Since the server is not affected, no emails or data are lost.

 Firewall

There are two firewalls that could stop a connection:

  • ISP email firewall
  • Server Firewall

ISP email Firewall
Internet service providers are expected to stop or at least reduce the amount of email spam that their customers receive.  They use many techniques but one of them is to subscribe to an email "blacklist" provider - or even generate their own blacklists.  These blacklists list the IP address of any server known to originate spam.  Any emails from that server, spam or not, are then blocked.  Apart from reducing spam, it also gives a strong incentive for server operators to stop their server being used to send spam. The symptoms are that only certain customers using certain ISPs will be affected.  Since Cobourg Internet also uses this service, this kind of firewall can affect emails from blacklisted servers (e.g. Airnet has been blacklisted occasionally).  Conversely, Cobourg Cloud has been blacklisted (in error) by Microsoft (Hotmail, Bell and Sympatico) so emails to them were rejected.  The solution is to get removed from the blacklist.  Note that this only affects emails and not access to web sites.

Server Firewall
Many hackers and spammers try continually to login or access server accounts -  email, FTP and CPanel.  Cobourg Cloud uses an effective firewall to stop  these attacks - generally hundreds per day - and the IP addresses of attackers are then blocked.  Legitimate users can get caught in this if they attempt to login 5 times or more but fail.  Their IP address will then get blocked for a period that could be days or weeks,  The symptoms will be that not only access to email is lost but also to your web site.  The solution is to contact Cobourg Internet and have the block removed.  This will often require that you know your IP address.  You can find your IP address by going to this site: www.whatismyip.com/  You can test it by going to a different IP address - e.g. at a different Wi-Fi hotspot.

Realtime Data

A chart showing realtime data for Cobourg Cloud is provided at the bottom of this page.  The chart shows the time to respond to a request for a page from 3 different locations.  The actual page load times will vary with the site - simpler sites will be fastest.

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