What is the Importance of Availability?
A website needs more than informative or entertaining content. It needs to be accessible! Websites that focus on eCommerce or customer service need to be available to current and potential customers 24/7. Site visitors expect a seamless interaction with your website or could otherwise be left frustrated, unhappy, and motivated to seek out your competitor’s website. You need to ensure that the response time to load your website’s content and the overall website performance is as problem-free as possible. Load testing is an important tool to optimize user experience and limit the potential problems site visitors could encounter. One major problem that affects all websites is website downtime. Although website downtime is inevitable, there are ways to minimize the impact.
What is website downtime?
Website downtime refers to the time when your website is unavailable to visitors. The website is either not accessible at all or unable to complete its primary task (product purchases, etc.). Maximizing website uptime is key to a successful business, so it is essential to minimize downtime. Scheduled downtime is often necessary, and you can inform customers about upcoming downtime, such as planned site maintenance. Unscheduled downtime, however, can result in disastrous effects from frustrated customers to lost revenue, sometimes a lot of lost revenue! The cost of downtime is serious; therefore, it is essential to resolve the issue and get your website back online as soon as possible.
Frequent website downtime dramatically impacts the success of website owners. Brands lose reputation points, businesses disappoint their customers, and the website drops in search engine rankings, resulting in dissatisfied customers and lost revenue. To ensure a functioning and successful website will be available to your customers or site visitors, you need to understand the possible causes of website downtime and how to fix the issues if they arise.
A wide range of reasons can cause website downtime. Let’s explore seven common causes for website downtime and strategies for resolving or preventing the issue.
1. Server Overload
Server overload can happen at any time and can have calamitous effects. When external conditions exhaust a server’s resources, the server is not able to process incoming requests. Even large companies experience server overload; check out these server overload-related epic crashes and their consequences. Server overload can result in performance issues, error codes (ie. 502, 503, 504), and lengthy downtime for your website. In order to prevent or resolve website downtime due to server overload, it is essential to understand the possible causes of server overload. Let’s take a look at a few:
Increase in traffic
The server can become overloaded if too many people attempt to visit your website. This is a particular risk during time-specific ecommerce sales.
An overwhelmed backup server
A backup server is often used if a primary server is undergoing maintenance or has experienced a malfunction. If your website has extra traffic at that time, the backup server could become overloaded.
Distributed-Denial-of-service attacks are malicious attacks by hackers. Hackers overload the server with fake access requests. There is additional information about DDoS attacks later in this article.
Frequently collect real-time server information and check related metrics by building a comprehensive load testing strategy. Testing your server behavior provides insight into how your site will perform under various scenarios. Contact us if you are ready for a powerful open-source load testing solution.
2. Website Hosting Issues
Most companies and businesses utilize the services of hosting providers such as Bluehost or Siteground, both of which are very popular in the WordPress community. However, some hosting services might not be the best option for your website; be sure to do your research and choose a hosting provider that best meets your needs and expectations. Remember, the best choice for your website might not be the cheapest option. Inexpensive hosting providers can sometimes cost you reliability and expected uptime on account of non-virtualized servers or outdated IT infrastructure.
Choose the infrastructure and hosting provider that is most appropriate for your website. Be sure the IT infrastructure is modern, the servers are updated, and the service can handle your expected traffic. If you are unsure of what a surge in website traffic might do to your website’s performance, you can test your website’s traffic load. Using this load test to simulate heavy traffic to your website can clarify what you need in a hosting provider and analyze the site’s performance. Your hosting provider should monitor your uptime to quickly catch issues as they arise.
Opt for SSD or a hybrid of SSD and HDD for data storage, if possible. The reliability and speed are worth the added cost for many companies.
3. Maintenance Issues
The umbrella of “maintenance” covers various areas, from the physical cleaning of servers to scheduled hardware and software updates to simply renewing your domain name. Building and sustaining a successful website requires a lot of effort!
Routine maintenance can include installing regular upgrades or replacing outdated hardware and other tasks necessary for optimal website performance and reliability. Many maintenance issues that cause website downtime are often scheduled ahead of time. Be sure to choose an appropriate time for scheduled site maintenance. Utilize your site analytics to determine a time that works best for your maintenance team and when there are few potential site visitors. When performing site maintenance, whether you are upgrading a functionality or fixing an issue, you will want to make the process smooth and understandable for your site visitors. Don’t let an error page frustrate visitors or customers further; using a maintenance mode page to inform visitors that the downtime is temporary can curtail many of the negative impacts of website downtime due to site maintenance.
Utilize fixed and flexible downtime for scheduled maintenance if you can determine the start and stop times for the maintenance, relay that information to your potential site visitors. If you need a more flexible approach, convey the possible time frame of the downtime. Communication about planned downtime can be sent to customers and potential site visitors through email or social media posts.
To resolve the issue of an expired domain name, set up an automatic renewal for your domain name registration. Although it seems simple, this basic maintenance task can sometimes be overlooked.
4. Hardware Failure
Unexpected hardware failures commonly cause website downtime. After all, hardware refers to physical objects, and physical objects break, requiring maintenance, updates, and cleaning. Outdated hardware is often the culprit behind failures that cause downtime. Advancements in technology move so quickly that many companies and organizations are unable to update servers or other hardware as frequently as they should. Plus, the process of changing hardware would require server outage, resulting in more downtime for the websites using the server.
Be sure to upgrade servers and other hardware as frequently as you can. This will ensure that your server has the power it needs to support high levels of traffic. You or your hosting provider should have backup servers available to secure website uptime if the dedicated servers fail or need replacing.
5. Security Issues
Believe it or not, cyber-attacks are real, and they can wreak havoc on your website. Crashed servers and, subsequently, lengthy website downtime can result from DDoS or Distributed-Denial-of-Service Attacks. A website can be targeted by a hacker and may fall victim to a DDoS attack. In this type of attack, the hacker makes devices send so many website access requests that they overwhelm and eventually crash the server. Therefore the targeted site, as well as the other websites on the server, go down.
To minimize the likelihood of a DDoS attack, utilize website monitoring and a quality firewall. Employing a dedicated server or a cloud server will further protect your website from potential DDoS attacks.
6. Unreliable Third-Party Extensions
Many websites are created using open-source CMSs like WordPress or Joomla. In order for these CMSs to work smoothly, extra functionalities such as plugins and extensions must work together. If any of these extensions or plugins are flawed, nulled, or outdated, your website might go down.
Use extensions and plugins from reliable sources, or if possible, reduce your dependence on third-party plug-ins. After updating a plug-in or making changes to your website, check your site to make sure it updated smoothly and is glitch-free!
7. Human Error
Software developers are human, right? And humans make mistakes sometimes. Human error is inevitable and can certainly be the central cause of website downtime. Errors might be the result of poor work quality or simple coding mistakes, or the mistakes of anyone involved in the website’s creation or overall functionality. Many people contribute to the overall process of making a website accessible, from the software developers to the specialists who clean the servers. Whether the error is a coding mistake or a thoughtless mistake (i.e., unplugging a cord, leaving a port open, not monitoring the temperature of the data center), a website’s uptime can be unexpectedly disturbed and result in unnecessary downtime.
Use automated tests to identify errors in code and fix the issue as quickly as possible. Everyone with access to the website should follow the same protocols and know about the most recent configurations and updates. When developers and engineers are working on a website, they should always follow best practices during initial hardware set-up. It is impossible to prevent human error fully, but it is certainly possible to minimize it.
Can Website Downtime be Prevented?
Website downtime cannot be 100% prevented, but you can take measures to minimize the impact of website downtime and prevent unnecessary causes for downtime.
• Monitor Your Site:
One action that is essential for preventing downtime is setting up website monitoring. A website monitoring service that monitors various aspects of your website’s uptime will alert you immediately if your website goes down, in addition to providing you with important information about your website. From advanced availability information to error breakdowns, a monitoring service can keep you fully informed about the performance of your website.
• Use Enhanced Security Measures:
Enhanced security measures can keep your website online, preventing downtime culprits such as hackers attempting a cyberattack. To protect your website, you can install security applications and restrict points of entry. Basic actions such as using SSL encryption, avoiding file uploading to your site, utilizing 2-factor authentication when applicable, and using firewalls can be overlooked sometimes. Take advantage of as many appropriate security measures as possible to prevent downtime due to malicious attacks. Be sure to back up your website in case you do fall victim to a cyberattack. A solid restore plan can get up back up in no time!
A successful website is an accessible website! Visitors want your website to work seamlessly from the moment they try to access it to the moment they are finished with it. As discussed, there are many strategies you can use to resolve any issues that your website encounters or to prevent them altogether. Although some level of website downtime is necessary for all sites, downtime can be managed and resolved quickly while keeping your site visitors happy.