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I have a little Linux server I use to server a few websites among other small things.

At times, the connection with the provider goes down and thus the whole thing stops working.

These days, at that point, I see a large increase in local traffic even though I'm not serving anything for that time since the DSL is effectively down.

Any idea what could cause that?

From what I could see, the server was still connected to the DNS servers of the provider, but those would not represent local traffic. Once the DSL modem is reset, things go back to normal assuming that the DSL does get back up.

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Please quantify "a large increase in local traffic" and how you observed this dynamic –  Mike Pennington Aug 7 '12 at 1:20
If you have programs that connect externally, they will go into a retry state trying to connect out. This may appear as an increase in internal traffic, but will just be failed attempts to connect to the DSL line. –  BillThor Aug 7 '12 at 3:32

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