What is a mirror site?

Abeerah Hashim Last updated: June 29, 2022

Mirror sites are a common thing on the internet. Let us tell you what they are and why they are so popular.

A mirror site is an exact copy of a website or any collection of files hosted on a server other than the original one.

And why would anybody just produce an exact copy of anything online, we hear you ask?

There are plenty of reasons. For example, software companies create several mirrors of their repositories to ensure access from any point in the globe. Others do it to plagiarize a successful website. Another good reason is to prevent server overload when there is an increased traffic flow. Less commonly, a mirror site can be a backup for the original one.

The types of a mirror site

Mirrors come in several flavors. The most common one is the static copy. This type of mirror is a snapshot of the original one that doesn’t update itself. Keeping it up to date requires the mirror’s owner to keep updating it by hand.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have live mirrors, which keep an eye on the original site and ensure that the mirror remains updated according to the changes on the source.

Download sites for software are often hosted in mirrors. This is meant to facilitate downloads for users by preventing server overloads and offering the downloaders a server close to them, thus being faster.

Consider, for instance, Ubuntu. Canonica, its parent company, is in South Africa. But users are everywhere, especially in Europe and North America, so it makes sense for the company to have mirror hosts in those regions instead of having everybody downloading from South African servers.

Mirror sites and censorship

Mirror sites have been an essential strategic asset against censorship too. Thus, a website whose content is problematic within its home jurisdiction can be mirrored elsewhere to ensure that the information will survive local legal problems or even a shutdown. This practice is most common in torrent sites.

Mirrors are also crucial in the vintage content world. If you are a fan of playing emulated Apple II, Commodore 64, or DOS games from the past, then you already know the mirror sites that host the file you need to play them.


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About the Author

Abeerah is a passionate technology blogger and cybersecurity enthusiast. She yearns to know everything about the latest technology developments. Specifically, she’s crazy about the three C’s; computing, cybersecurity, and communication. When she is not writing, she’s reading about the tech world.

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