Last spring, we outgrew once and for all the capabilities of our current server (i.e., computer setup) situation for our website customers. So we had to move everything to a new server. On most counts, this was a good move. The new server has more space, it's much faster and should all around work better. However, we ran into a situation that is becomming a problem for websites all around.
Most of the time, everything just works. But there were many instances when I would be unable to get to my websites. Many tickets and support calls went between my and the company selling me the server and its support. While there were a few minor issues at the outset that were quickly resolved, access problems continued to happen from time to time and my server company kept assuring me that there was nothing wrong with the server.
I got a little paranoid. I wondered if rogue elements were hijacking my server for untold purposes. I found plenty of attempts to hijack, but little foul play. (This is a pervasive problem in the industry and if we've recently increased the security on your site, this is likely the reason.) The turning point, for me at least, was realizing that not only was I having these intermittent problems accessing sites under my control, but it was happening on other sites as well. One of the most annoying examples of this was that most afternoons any site I'd visit that had a FaceBook (like) icon on it, would give me an error. Likewise, my ability to get to Google after 2pm was hit and miss.
More hours of research led to questioning whether my router was becomming extinct, or there was something fundamentally wrong with my computer. Maybe there is, but that isn't what ultimately solved my problem. What I did was change the DNS addresses my computer uses to find websites.
DNS is short for Domain Name Server. What it is, is something like a phone directory. You use it to look up the name of the website you are trying to access (e.g., www.foxcomputersystems.com) and it finds the 'phone number', technically IP address for the site (which for this site happens to be 188.8.131.52).
Perhaps you've moved recently, gotten a new phone number and tried to check your listing in your local white pages. Chances are, the listing in the phone book is out-of-date, or just plain wrong. That's what happens with DNS. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) typically provides the DNS server (phone book) for you to use when you go surfing on the web. But not all ISPs receive updates as frequently as we'd wish. And then there are the folks out there who are dreaming up ways to counterfeit the listings and reroute you somewhere you'd rather not go (but that's another story).
The good news is that there are third parties who provide DNS servers that you can use who make it their business to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. One is Google, another is OpenDNS. In both cases, you may find that you reach websites more quickly and securely. I've used Google for my mobile devices for a couple of years and it has proven to be quite reliable. OpenDNS provides additional security and will even give you reports showing you where you've been if you sign up for one of their free accounts. I highly recommend you change to one of these services.
If you're technically savvy, here are the links and DNS IP addresses to use:
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