Anyone with a website knows it can be extremely stressful when problems occur. Our websites easily deliver vast amounts of information to a broad audience 24/7. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen and a website might be unavailable or redirect to a different site altogether. Luckily, there are ways to troubleshoot these issues in an effort to get things back to normal.

It is important to understand the 3 main pieces of a website and how they work together to make every website happen. In another post, "Website Terminology & What you Need to Know", we discuss these parts as well as some additional information in more depth. This post focuses on the domain portion of a website, and how to troubleshoot issues related to a website domain.

How to Troubleshoot Issues with Website Domains

There are lots of things that can happen to a website to keep them from operating as you might expect. While we listed a few of the issues above, there are certainly plenty of others. Issues can be related to website content, the website hosting platform, the domain registrar or the DNS hosting.

A website domain is a very important piece of the puzzle and choosing one can make all the difference in the world. The domain is the unique identifier used to find your website on the internet. For instance, eyonic.com is our domain, which is how you access our website within a web browser. If you choose a domain that does not match your business in name or main operation, or one that is challenging to spell or one with words that end in the same letter as the next word begins, you may have issues with people successfully getting to your site.

To further complicate this process and make choosing a domain more critical, changing a domain is comparable to changing a physical address. So, choose wisely when you purchase a domain name! It can often be impossible to find an available domain that matches exactly what you are searching for, but be careful not to rush into this decision.

Lastly, a quick refresher of the parts that make a website work:

  • A website starts with a domain name - this is purchased from a registrar and can never be owned outright, but instead is purchased for one or more years.
  • DNS - DNS (Domain Name System) translates an easy to remember domain name into the IP address where it actually lives. An IP address is the unique location where every website is located represented as a numeric value. Hosted DNS servers pass on requests for every website to where the website is actually located.
  • Website hosting - the location where the website content lives, also paid in one or multiple year increments.
  • Website content - the actual content and information displayed when someone visits a website.

Step 1: Gathering Information

There are two main pieces of information to gather that will help locate issues.

Find the registrar

First, find out who the registrar is for the domain in question. If you are having an issue with a domain, say you lost ownership of it, identifying the registrar can be helpful. The registrar is where you would login to manage the domain name as well as regularly renewing the registration. Domain registration is required as long as you want the domain to be active. Common registrars are GoDaddy and Network Solutions.

The best way to locate the registrar is to run a WHOIS search against the domain.

To run a WHOIS search:

  • Visit GoDaddy.com.
  • Scroll to the footer.
  • Click on the WHOIS link in the Resources section.

GoDaddy has a link to the WHOIS database in the footer of their website.

  • Type the domain name in the search bar and click the "Search" button.

Type the name of the domain in the search bar to find the registrar.

Scroll through the results to find the registrar. Keep in mind, this is also an easy way to find the expiration of the current domain name registration.

Typical WHOIS results for a domain name search.

Find the DNS host

The company hosting the DNS does not necessarily match the domain registrar so it is good to check. DNS is the service responsible for translating something like www.eyonic.com to the IP address that hosts the website. DNS is what does the heavy lifting so we as users can remember things as simple as Slack.com, etc.

To find the DNS host:

  • Open a command prompt window by typing "cmd" in search and clicking on "Command Prompt".
  • In the command prompt window type "nslookup" and press enter.
  • At the > prompt type "set type=ns" and press enter.
  • At the > prompt type the domain name and press enter.
  • The results will display the DNS host information.
Typical results of a DNS host lookup using nslookup.

Step 2: Locating the website

Find the IP address

Using nslookup you can also determine the IP, or internet protocol, address of any website. The IP address is what DNS translates eyonic.com into. IP addresses exist in the format of X.X.X.X where each X represents between 1-3 numbers. NOTE: There are parameters for how high these numbers can go, as well as some that can only be used within internal networks, but that information falls outside the scope of this post.

To determine the IP address of a website:

  • If not already open, open a command prompt by searching for "cmd" and clicking on "Command Prompt".
  • Type "nslookup" and press enter.
  • At the > prompt, type "set type=a" and press enter.
  • At the > prompt type the domain name and press enter.
Typical results showing the IP address of a domain name using nslookup.

Find the host of the website

Once you have the IP address of the website, you can locate the website host. Knowing the website host can be helpful if your website was hijacked, redirected without your knowledge or modified by an unauthorized user. The host of the website may also provide  information that can be used to recover the domain name.

To find the website host:

  • Open a web browser and go to Arin.net.
  • From the home page type the website IP address, garnered in the previous step, in the search bar and click "Search".
  • Typical results from an IP search with Arin.net.

    Suffering from website issues is never fun. Domain issues can be especially tricky considering you might not know where to begin to fix the issue or even understand what is causing the issue. It might be as simple as the registration lapsing, but without knowing who the registrar is, it is impossible to even determine that is the issue. Finding the registrar, the DNS host, the site IP address, and the website host are all steps that can help you regain ownership of your website.

    As always, knowing where to start when something does not behave as expected is key to recovery!