Traceroute Overview

Traceroute can be used to show you how a site is physically connected to the Internet.  Along the way you will also gain an understanding of how networks inter-connect.

Shortcuts: traceroute.org - MANY traceroute servers such as: princetonTelstra , Hafey (Australia), Serversniff (Germany)
 airport code database.
Other related pages: Determining Source of a Web PageReading a URL , Domain Names , Whois.,

In the WHOIS Tutorial, you can determine who is the registered owner of a domain name.  Knowing who owns the domain may not satisfy your curiosity. You may also be interested in where is the Web server located, and how is it connected to the Internet. There is a network utility called traceroute which is often used to troubleshoot network connections. In a Unix or Windows environment, Traceroute can be used to determine the specific network route taken from your workstation to reach a specific remote host. (Dos command: tracert sitename.com) Fortunately, there are many Unix systems on the Internet that allow us to originate a traceroute from their location to any other location that you specify. 

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Perform a traceroute to the host name

Look at this sample traceroute from www.boardwatch.com to www.whitehouse.gov:

  1. t1 (204.144.169.2) 1.499 ms
  2. t1.esoft.com (199.45.143.14) 9.549 ms
  3. border-from-14-esoft.boulder.co.coop.net (199.45.130.13) 15.155 ms
  4. core-gw-eth-0-2.boulder.co.coop.net (199.45.132.33) 33.277 ms
  5. denver-cr2.bbnplanet.net (4.0.212.249) 19.309 ms
  6. denver-br1.bbnplanet.net (4.0.52.1) 19.306 ms
  7. oakland-br1.bbnplanet.net (4.0.1.133) 48.046 ms
  8. oakland-br2.bbnplanet.net (4.0.1.78) 48.913 ms
  9. sanjose1-br1.bbnplanet.net (4.0.1.74) 53.034 ms
  10. mae-west2.us.psi.net (198.32.184.23) 47.213 ms
  11. se.sc.psi.net (38.1.3.5) 148.414 ms
  12. rc5.southeast.us.psi.net (38.1.25.5) 127.893 ms
  13. ip2.ci3.herndon.va.us.psi.net (38.25.11.2) 139.433 ms
  14. 198.137.240.33 (198.137.240.33) 134.218 ms
  15. www2.whitehouse.gov (198.137.240.92) 141.93 ms

In this example, boardwatch gets its connectivity from "esoft.com" who get its connectivity from "coop.net" who is connected to BBNplanet (A backbone provider). BBNplanet Inter-connects with another Backbone provider (PSI) through the MAE-West Connection point. It then appears that the Whitehouse.gov Web site is connected though PSI near Virginia. Recognize that an organization's website may not be located at the organization. The organization's website may be hosted someplace else. A more accurate approach to determine the location of the organization might be to do a traceroute to the organization's mailhost or proxy server.

Tips on reading the traceroute results:

Traceroute Utilities:

You can perform traceroutes from various sites via MultiTrace web site (also has a "trace to self").  traceroute.orgopus1Geektoolsthe Club Traceroute web page. or Network-tools.comWorld-wide map of traceroute serversMultiple traceroute - Initiate simultaneous Traceroutes from servers around the world.

Neotrace - A very convenient traceroute utility. Neotrace displays the traceroute nodes as symbols with country flags.   Neotrace also associates the Whois for each network node in the trace. You may also want to download Visual Route, which can overlay your traced route over a geographic map. You can try a Java_based version of Visual route online through this web page: http://visualroute.datametrics.com/ . Pingplotter another tool which also includes monitoring capabilities (to prove to your ISP that the connection does have problems)

Hostname to Latitude/Longitude Converter (even plots the location on a map)

For more information see CAIDA Animations for traceroute,

You can download additional traceroute clients - see getting software for resources.

Other Flavors of Traceroute (some of these require a unix installation):

Final Thoughts. Recognize that a website can be hosted anywhere. Organizations make the decision on where they want to host a web site.  Sometimes they have the connection, facilities and personnel to host the web site at their own facility, but it is also common for an organization to host their site at a commercial web hosting facility.

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