If you are an internet user, but you do not care if it works or not, then you may stop reading now. If you do care then you need to understand that the single most important skill you must have is how to use “trace route.” Some form of a trace route utility is available for iPhone, Android phones, Windows PCs, Macs, routers, and almost any other sophisticated device that is internet-connected.
As its name implies, trace route is a test that traces the route your internet connection takes from your device, through your Internet Service Provider (maybe Megacable or Telmex), through servers in Mexico City then possibly to Dallas, California, to finally connect to the web site you are trying to access located in New York or wherever it may be located.
Please understand that the trace route test never fails. YOU can fail if you do not use the test, or your computer could fail; but the trace route test never fails to produce some kind of result. What you need to do right now is go on the internet, now while yours is working, and search for “trace route tutorial” to learn how to use this diagnostic for your computer or device.
When it comes to internet connectivity issues, this is truly a binary situation with only two ways you can go. One, you can learn how to use the trace route diagnostic to identify your problem so you know who to call to fix it. Or, two; you can stand out on your balcony wailing “It doesn’t work!” and hope that somebody hears you and comes to your aid. It is much more efficient to use option one so you know who to call. When you choose to use option two you can expect to be frustrated because you are almost sure to waste time calling people who cannot possibly help.
One morning when I woke I found my email not working. My computer said “Cannot connect to mail.smaguru.com.” The trace route diagnostic told me that my computer was connecting to Telmex, then to their server in Mexico City, then to us.zip.zayo.com in Houston, then to Level3.net in Cleveland, then to cust.e-xpedient.com where my email server is physically located in Florida. That is where the connection died. There was clearly no problem at Telmex because my web host in Florida was the point of failure.
Now that I knew the location of the problem I phoned my web host to tell them that I could connect as far as their office (cust.e-xpedient.com) but not to my email server located inside their office. The tech there told me “Your server is over in Building 7 with thousands of other customer’s servers. I’m sending a technician over there now. I’ll be back to you in 30 minutes.”
Just a minute later my phone rang, but it was a client complaining her internet was down, saying “It doesn’t work!” I asked “Did you run the trace route test like I showed you?” She answered “No, but I think the problem must be Telmex so I’ll call them” and she hung up. My problem was fixed in thirty minutes, I do not know if hers ever was.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8@SMAguru.com.