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What is a Mirror Site?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A mirror site is a copy of a website or set of files hosted at a remote location. There are a number of reasons to establish such a site, ranging from a desire to ensure that people have access to information to an attempt to plagiarize. You may be familiar with the idea of a mirror site, especially if you have ever downloaded software and been asked to pick from a list of download locations. Each location in the list was a mirror website.

There are several ways in which a mirror site can work. Most commonly, a mirror is a static copy of the original site, almost like a snapshot, requiring the owner to update the mirror frequently if he or she wants to keep the content current. It is also possible to establish a live mirror, which stays current with changes on the original site. Mirrors can copy entire websites, or they can serve as file archives.

One common reason to establish a mirror site is to cope with a sudden influx of traffic which would otherwise overload the server. By offering visitors a mirror website, or several, the site owner can keep the site running while ensuring that people get to see it. This can be useful when a site goes down because of a server problem or influx of traffic. Mirror sites are also used as backups, ensuring that a complete set of files is hosted somewhere else in case a server becomes damaged or corrupt in some way.

Software downloads are often hosted on mirror sites to avoid overwhelming the server, and for the convenience of users. For example, a download site based in Germany might offer a mirror site based in Japan for Japanese users, making it faster for them to download files. The distribution of the software across a number of servers also ensures that it will always be accessible to users, even if one or more sites go down.

Classically, mirror sites have been used to fight censorship. A controversial site might be mirrored at a remote location in case the site is shut down, for example, or sites which are banned by censoring software might host mirrors so that people can still access them. A mirror can also serve as a repository for vintage content, a sort of living archive which endures when the original site is taken down or radically redesigned. This can be nice for users who want to see a site in its previous incarnation, or access information which is dated, but still of interest.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sapphire12 — On Jan 09, 2011

Many computer and technology companies offer mirror sites to users, both to make them more easily accessed and also to make content more readily available in different languages.

By recapitulate — On Jan 07, 2011

While this site does mention that sometimes mirror sites are useful in avoiding censorship, they can be equally used in avoiding being caught at plagiarism. For example, many people make music illegally available using Youtube mirror sites, in which the same user has 2 or more accounts, each of which hosts videos or music clips of the same song. The same also applies for the vast number of websites that exist for watching or even downloading movies and television shows illegally; mirror sites help to avoid detection, or at least to not lose everything when illegal sites are caught and/or shut down.

By FernValley — On Jan 06, 2011

Another convenient use of mirror sites are as translations. With the rise of web comic popularity for example, some popular comics have led to mirror sites of their work in which the text is translated into another language, such as from English to French.

Even more interesting, while these sites are occasionally maintained by the authors, they are even more often begun and updated by devoted fans.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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