Website downtime

Website Downtime: What to Do When the Worst Happens

We live in an age of instant gratification. The internet has shortened our attention spans so much that if something on the web takes longer than two seconds to load, we’re gone.

In fact, 47 percent of visitors to a website expect the page to load within two seconds and 40 percent of visitors will leave your page if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Imagine what an extended period of website downtime will do.

Downtime is the period of time when a web page is unavailable or unable to perform its primary function for any reason. For every second your website is not functioning, you’re losing someone to a competitor. 

Why stick around one site that’s failing to do its job when you can buy the same product from another site with a couple of extra clicks? 

Even worse, prolonged periods of website downtime could affect your future as well. Search engines notice sites prone to extended periods of downtime and will often demote their rank. You’ve probably invested too much money in your site’s SEO to let it get squandered by a bad rank. 

For these reasons, website downtime has become the ultimate enemy of any website owner. Even if your site is up 99 percent of the time, this still means that for seven hours a month, your customers will not be able to reach you. 

So what can you do to defend against downtime? 

First, you need to know your enemy.

What Causes Website Downtime 

DDoS Attacks

Hackers and DDoS attacks are one of the most central external reasons for a website to crash. In recent years, hackers have been getting better and better. They know how to avoid the usual pitfalls that are put in place to prevent DDoS attacks from happening in the first place.

The unfortunate reality is that the best way to protect against a DDoS attack is not to protect yourself from them entirely, but to be sure you know one is happening immediately and having a plan in place to solve the issue quickly. 

If you run your own servers, it would be wise to have a DDoS specialist on call who can mitigate the DDoS traffic to a different service while they scrub the infected one clean. 

If you have a hosting provider, make sure to notify them immediately once you notice a DDoS attack is underway.

Again, the best way to mitigate the damage from these hacks is to catch them early. This is best done by hiring a website monitoring company that will run frequent checks on your site, making sure it’s functioning properly. 

Plugin And Coding Errors

Another frequent culprit of downtime is an issue with some extension you have downloaded to your site. These plugins are extra pieces of code you can download to your site, usually found on platforms like WordPress or Medium, that add some extra feature.

However, because most plugins are made by third-parties, they may not be optimized to work well with your site. They may also be out-of-date or completely defunct if their creators have abandoned them, and the resulting error in the coding could bring your entire site to a screeching halt. 

 Same thing goes for the internal coding of your site. Maybe you’re working on building a new feature for the “Contact Us” tab and the coding gets messed up somewhere along the way. One bad piece of coding is enough to bring everything down with it.

Aside from making sure the plugins you use are up to date and not hiring anyone who will make a clumsy mistake writing code, the best way to prevent these kinds of issues is to identify them quickly.

Make sure your monitoring company has an API that will send you an update immediately if your site is crashing. That way you can address the problem quickly. 

Expired Domain

Many people don’t realize that their website’s domain is hosted by a different company than their actual website and/or server host. Often times you will buy your domain name from a company on a year-by-year contract, and it can be easy to forget when that contract is due to expire.

If it does expire without a renewal, your website will stop showing up. This is perhaps the easiest website downtime cause to prevent but you’d be surprised by how many people fall victim to it.

Don’t let this happen to you, make sure you know when your domain is set to expire. And if possible, set up an agreement to auto-renew so you never have to worry about this issue in the first place. 

It’s also important to know how to keep your site running while you’re attempting to fix these downtime culprits. First, invest in a CDN service. This will store cached content from your site that can stay operational through periods of downtime.

Next, set up a secondary hosting account with a different provider that you send backed-up data to on a frequent basis. That way, if the initial server goes down, you can transfer your traffic to this secondary account while the problems on the original get worked out. To do this you’re going to need a DNS management system that will automatically route your traffic to the secondary server.

This may sound complicated, but many companies offer these types of services at a low cost. Although the secondary server may get a little pricey depending on who you use.

Also, you need to communicate with your customers about the outage. Even if your site goes down for 15 minutes, make sure to inform your site’s users via email or social media that the problem is being addressed and will be resolved soon. 

None of these measures to get your site up and running quickly will matter if your users have already gone elsewhere. Keep them informed. 

Most importantly, invest in website monitoring so you will always know when your website is up and running and when your website is experiencing downtime.