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Is is my understanding that domain name forwarding is not subject to "outages": servers can have outages, and websites can be down, but the forwarding itself cannot be down, as this is simply a pointer. (Or, the entire registrar where the DNS settings are hosted would have to malfunction. Is this correct?

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Domain name forwarding is subject to outages just like any other hosting. Here is a list of steps that happen when somebody types in a domain name (forward.exmample.com) that gets forwarded (to www.example.com):

  1. A DNS lookup for forward.example.com is performed and an IP address is obtained
  2. The browser connects to that IP address on port 80
  3. The browser issues a GET request for the root document
  4. The server responds with a 301 moved permanently status and a Location: header of www.example.com

Outages could happen at the DNS level or at web host level. Here is what happens for a similar request for the correct domain. As you can see there is not much difference:

  1. A DNS lookup for www.example.com is performed and an IP address is obtained
  2. The browser connects to that IP address on port 80
  3. The browser issues a GET request for the root document
  4. The server responds with a 200 status code and the contents of the page.

The biggest difference is that forwarding is a very simple type of hosting.

  • There is generally no database (only one piece of information per forwarded domain: where to forward). The data is usually stored in a configuration file.
  • The response is simple and short. (As opposed to building a complex page where lots can go wrong during that process.)
  • Even for a popular website, there won't be very much traffic to the forwarding rule. It should only used by type in traffic. Links, bookmarks, and on site navigation would generally not make use of the forwarding service.
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If you run a traceroute to your website a network failure on any hop can cause your website to not load. That all depends on router configurations all along the way. Do they re-reroute to an available router or just time out your connection. Ideally you would have more than two name server setup for your domain, typically most websites have a primary and secondary name server. You can also setup more DNS services, but that's just part of keeping your site accessible if a DNS server fails. –  Anagio Oct 20 '13 at 21:26
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