August 25, 2021

Why is My Website Down?

Common causes why your website is experiencing downtime, and how to prevent it.

Nowadays if a website wants to succeed and stand out from its competitors, it must build a strong online presence. This can be achieved by having a beautifully constructed website, with a meaningful user experience, and a fast site speed. But having all these elements is just not enough, if the website doesn’t respond to a connection attempt.

Accessing a very slow website, or what is even worse, a website to receive an error message such as an HTTP error code like 404 Not Found, 400 Bad Request, 403 Forbidden; can be very frustrating. Who hasn’t encountered one of these error codes?…. Exactly, we’ve all had. This amount of time were a website is offline or crashing, is known as downtime.
The slightest malfunction can significantly harm your business. Whatever the reason behind it, it is a real and common problem that every single website faces.

What is website downtime?

Let’s start by explaining, for those who are not very familiar with the concept, that downtime is the length of time an application (website, API, server, …) is offline, or not able to perform its primary task. This period of time affecting a website is known as website downtime.

Downtime happens to every company, no matter the size. Companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo have had their fair share of downtime. Amazon lost nearly $100 million dollars in 2018 for a 63 minutes outage. You might not be Amazon, but the point is, no matter the size of your company, downtime can cost you a significant amount of money. And even if your revenue is not impacted directly, you can lose credibility and users’ trust.
Websites can crash at any given time. Downtime should be taken seriously, and therefore, one of your business top most priority is having an accessible website at all times.

Reasons why your website is down

Here we’ve highlighted some of the most common causes of website downtime, and how to prevent them from happening.

1. Unreliable Hosting Providers

Every website must be hosted on a server, which is managed by hosting providers. Hosting providers also face downtime. If your website is hosted on a shared server by the host, whenever there’s a huge surge of traffic to your site, the host might suspend or take your site off to protect others sites. Similarly, it could also occur the other way around, which would affect your site availability as well.
Another cause could be that the host provider is carrying out a system maintenance, which will take your site off for a certain period of time.

You’ll find that most hosting providers advertise 99% uptime or even 100%. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, no company can guarantee 100% uptime - it simply does not exist, impossible to achieve in the real world. If you see it advertised, is not worth the paper it’s printed on.
This is something important when you choose a hosting supplier: if they claim a 100% uptime, they are not trustworthy.

To reduce downtime effects, you should choose a reliable hosting provider.

2. Cyber attacks

Sometimes, your site might receive an unforeseen traffic spike. This could be that an individual, group of individuals, or malware, is attempting to bring your site down by sending a high volume of fake traffic to your site. This is known as DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service). Your site might not be the direct target of the attack, but if your website is hosted on a shared server, you will suffer the downtime as well.

There are many automated bots that are probing your website at all times to see if they can break into. There are some applications, such as Wordpress, that are especially vulnerable to automated attacks. If they manage to break into, they can take your website down, make it slow, or unstable.

A proactive approach to malicious threads is to keep your software updated.

3. Hardware and software issues

A very common cause of major outages is hardware and software issues. This is mayoritary caused by a lack of appropriate periodical hardware and systems maintenance and/or lack of well maintained redundant systems.

The solution, schedule regular maintenance to your hardware and software components which will allow you to spot components that could lead to website downtime. Make sure that you don’t have single points of failure, and that if anything fails you will get notified.

4. Expired Domain name

Every website has a domain name, which in most cases, corresponds to the business name. Domain names are not registered permanently, and they eventually expire, becoming available for anyone to re-register. Forgetting to renew a domain can become a real headache and cost you money.

To prevent this from happening, you can use a third party domain monitoring tool, which will send you an alarm when your domain is about to expire; or ensure to set out several reminders in your calendar before the expiry date.

5. Expired SSL Certificates

A SSL certificate in your website server, allows you to host HTTPs and create secure and encrypted connections between your site and its visitors. When your SSL certificate expires, visitors won’t be able to access your website. The browser will display a warning message saying that the website is insecure.

alt text To avoid your SSL certificate from expiring, you can automate this by installing a third party provider that will send you a notification when your SSL is about to expire.

6. Human errors

This last cause is very generic, and it could actually encompass some of the points above. But some examples which are more directly related to human error are: a problematic software deployment; lack of interest to implement better management processes; failure to upgrade server hardware or automated applications; misconfiguration issues.

How to mitigate the risk of downtime

Most of these outlined factors behind website downtime can be prevented or kept to a bare minimum. However, the key factor to really mitigate the amount of time a site is offline, is to improve website uptime and performance.
This is achieved by implementing website monitoring as a redundancy system, making it easier for you to track down issues and solve them.

MeerkatWatch can monitor your website and send you real time notifications, providing the most accurate and reliable performance data, which allows you to fix the problem before visitors notice that you are down.

Every second that your website is down, is money that you’re losing, especially if your customers rely on your site 24/7, like an e-commerce business.

Be proactive with your website and avoid downtime in the first place. Try us for free and find out how simple and easy it is to manage your website downtime.