What to Do When the Web is Down

The web, just like most other things that we use daily, is a type of machine. It is a giant machine maintained and used by billions across the globe. Like any other machine, repairs become necessary. These repairs can be routine (like updating pictures, text, prices, etc.) or emergency (such as after a malicious attack against a site).

Either way, sometimes these repairs and updates stand in the way of us and the one piece of information we just Googled to prove to all our buddies that we really know what we’re talking about. What is a user to do when they are slapped in the face with an “Under Construction” or “404″ sign? Easy, my readers, just go around the signs.

Just like real life construction zones, most websites offer detours for users to use to access certain information. Those detours may not be as quick and they may not be as scenic, but if what you seek is something simple, then those detours will work wonders for you.

Various internet services browse the web constantly taking snapshots of the billions and billions of web pages out there. Different services offer different options and functions, but most are free. Those photographs of the sites are collected and referred to as a web cache. It is these digital pictures that also make self censorship so important. If you post an embarrassing photo to a website and that website gets snapped by one of the crawling Internet cameras, that file will exist forever in that server’s memory, even if you later delete the photo or ask the site owner to take the photo down, pictures of your photo will still be available to anybody who really wanted to track it down.

Cached websites are digital pictures of the actual website. This means that a person who accesses a cached version of a website will be able to view the data from the last time it was photographed, but they will not be able to change or play certain information. This function is similar to a person printing out a version of their entire blog and mailing it to you via snail mail if the site goes down for maintenance.

For some sites, the fact that we have virtually no access to practical functions is of no importance to us. For people who just want to view the information on a site, the cached version will work like a charm. So any site that operates in real time with your actions like banking and school sites will have to be visited later if they go down. Other sites, like informational, article posting, and encyclopedic sites will still be able to be used through their cached versions. This is a great bonus for people that need immediate access to printed information like last minute essay writers looking for references or scholarly professionals wanting to verify research a topic.

While cached versions of websites are not normally viewed unless the parent website is down or under construction, it should be known that the cached version of a website is always available, whether the site is down or up and running.

There are various services that allow free access to cached websites, and the list included is only a partial list. For those who are doing very serious research, it is recommended that you check out the cached version of one site from multiple services because it is very possible that two different cameras shot the same site at different times when different information was posted.

Google.Com
Easy as typing in your search query as normal. When the results come up any cached versions of the resulting website can be found by clicking on the word “Cached” that is underlined and after the green web address. It’s a little hard to see because the word “Cached” is light gray in color.

Yahoo.Com
Same directions as Google. Click on the word “Cached” following the green web address on your results page.

BrowserShots.Org
This free service lets you select what browser you want to view a screen shot of a website with. It is meant for site builders who want to experience how other browser users see their site, but it can be used for anything where a cached version of a website would be needed. All you do is check the box next to the browsers you want to view a site in and type the address of the site in the search box. Click enter and your screen shots will be uploaded on the next page. It’s advised that you only check one browser name if you don’t care what the site looks like and you just want the information. The more browsers you select the slower the upload will be.

Web2Mail.com
This is an interesting service. It allows users to email themselves snapshots of websites. I guess that’s one way to check up on whatever it is you shouldn’t be checking up on while you’re at work. The process is as easy as signing up for a free account and subscribing to a web address. Updates can be sent on the hour only.

Archive.Org
This site is awesome. The Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine is like an Internet time machine. Anyone can access the site and all you have to do is type in a web address to a search bar to be presented with a list of dates going as far back as 1996. Clicking on these dates will display a snap shot of what your web address looked like on that particular date. It’s funny to see how little we cared about aesthetics back then.

These are some great services and websites that will come in great handy when you need to access cached websites for work or personal curiosity. Use them as research tools at school or to settle the bet that you haven’t been able to settle because the one site that you need to access is under construction.

With so many web site cache services the odds that the web site your looking for is not cached are pretty slim.