website-downtime

Website Downtime: How To Deal With It & Why It Matters

Alex Panagis Other Leave a Comment

Your website is the face of your business.

Now more than ever users not only expect it to be available all the time, they expect it to load in no more than two seconds.

So just imagine if performance can have such a huge impact on your bottom line, what would happen if your entire site became inaccessible?

If your website is down (inaccessible) to users, the months of hard work you put into design, development, and content won’t help you…

In this post, we’ll cover what website downtime is, the ways it hurts your business as well as how you can deal with it from a technical perspective to prevent it from happening.

What Is Website Downtime?

Website downtime is when both first-time visitors or existing customers try to access your website and can’t get it to load, making it impossible for them to sign up for your services, purchase your product or get in touch with you.

Evidently, whether momentarily or prolonged, this can be detrimental for your business.

Why Is Downtime Bad For Your Business?

Your Search Engine Rankings Suffer 📉

The longer your server takes to respond, the more Google may limit the number of URLs it crawls on your website. So, as you’d expect, extended periods of downtime can cause your search engine rankings to suffer which will mean all of your hard work will have gone to waste.

Recovering and building back up can take time.

You Lose Credibility 👮‍♂️

A business website that can’t keep itself available & fast will quickly lose credibility especially if this is the main place where customers & potential customers interact with your business.

You Lose Money 💵

This is true for all websites but especially true for eCommerce websites. If your site goes down will someone is mid-checkout, the chances of them trying to purchase your product or service again and going through the whole process all over again are extremely low.

In this scenario, you can almost always guarantee that you’ll be losing money whether directly (lost customers) or indirectly (damaged brand reputation)…

The resulting downtime can also cause huge business losses – by reducing engagement, lowering conversions and sales, and ultimately, affecting customer trust and brand loyalty. 

Common Website Downtime Causes

Website crashes and downtime can occur due to several reasons.

Sometimes it can be something as simple as human error such as accidental file deletion or making a mistake when editing a file. However, oftentimes it can be caused by things out of your direct control like hosting and malware…

Hosting Issues

Low-quality, unreliable web hosting is by far the most common cause of website downtime. You can build an incredibly high-performing website and host it with web hosts that will be incapable of keeping your website fast let alone online.

All in all, the simplest way to put it is that there are plenty of web hosts to choose from but not all of them provide the same level of service and security. Even among those that take ample measures to ensure security and performance, there are times when web hosts have run into problems that caused sites on their platform to experience downtime…

Here are some of the common problems you might face with your web hosting provider:

  • Your host server could itself be hacked or compromised by a successful hack or malware attack
  • Overloading of the hosting server, due to a spike in traffic or engagement,  particularly if you are on shared hosting 
  • Data centers and servers could be affected by software issues, power outages, electrical or mechanical problems, or even natural disasters 

Plugin/Theme Incompatibility Issues

In general, WordPress websites are powered by a combination of different WordPress core versions, themes, and plugins…

When new versions of the WordPress core, as well as themes & plugins, are released, updates can occasionally lead to incompatibility issues that may crash your website or cause the infamous WordPress white screen of death.

These issues are very easy to resolve as long as you have the proper process in place to do so, in the next section we’ll be taking a look at how to deal with website downtime…

Malware or Imminent Hack

The one small side-effect of WordPress being the most powerful and most popular content management system available, powering over 1/3rd of the entire web is that it has become a popular target for hackers.

Inevitably, malware and attempted hacks can cause your site to be taken offline or crash in a number of ways:

  • When hackers break into your site, they usually inject malware. This can slow down your website and make it unresponsive as hackers drain your website’s resources to run their malicious activities. 
  • Many times, hackers cleverly disguise and hide their hacks from the site owner making it hard to detect. If the hack is active for a while, Google will detect it and blacklist your website immediately. They do this to protect users on their platform from being exposed to any risks a hacked website poses.
  • Your web host could also temporarily suspend your website if it detects any malware or any other infection in your site. This is a precaution hosts take in order to safeguard their platform and other websites that they host.
  • Lastly, in case of a brute force or DDoS attack, hackers overload your website’s server with traffic requests which leads to a site crash.

How To Deal With Website Downtime?

Luckily, there are ways to prevent your site from facing these issues. In this article,  we discuss the three most common reasons for WordPress site crashes and five easy ways of preventing them. Let’s get started.  

1. Implement Alerts

Before you can do absolutely anything about your website becoming inaccessible, you need to be aware of when it actually happens.

Fortunately, there are a number of excellent paid & free tools that can handle uptime monitoring for you – our personal favorites are ManageWP & the WPMU DEV Hub, but other options include:

Having a simple system like this is important because it makes sure you can stay on top of when one of your own or one of your clients’ websites becomes inaccessible and act quickly.

2. Communicate Well

If it’s a client site that goes down, don’t try to hide it from them especially if something you did resulted in the downtime.

Message them as soon as you become aware of the downtime to let them know that you’re already working on it and will push a fix shortly. Client communication is incredibly important to maintaining a good relationship with them and retaining them, so the last thing you want to do is for them to find out that the site went down themselves.

3. Switch To A Reliable Web Host

As we mentioned, website crashes can be a problem if your site is hosted on a shared hosting platform. Shared hosts divide their host server resources and bandwidth among multiple websites. This can affect your website performance. 

If you are constantly facing an unresponsive website or slow website speeds and performance despite having it optimized and well-designed, it’s probably time to switch to better web host providers like Bluehost, or Cloudways

As an alternative, opt for managed hosting like Kinsta. While more expensive than shared hosting, it allocates dedicated server resources just for your site and even offers 24/7 customer support for any issues. 

4. Keep Your Website Secure & Up-to-date

Just like gardeners use pesticides or insecticides to keep pests away from plants, you need security tools that can protect your website from malware and other security risks.

A well-designed and comprehensive security strategy is an absolute must for every website. You can choose from a variety of WordPress security tools that can quickly detect any malware on your site and also remove them to clean your site.

Here are a few things to look for in a good security plugin: 

  • Automated, periodic, and in-depth website scanning
  • Easy cleaning of detected malware and website restoration
  • A built-in firewall that can block requests from bad or suspicious IP addresses.
  • Easy configuring of website hardening measures as recommended by WordPress 

Security plugins like MalCare and Sucuri offer all of these features and more at competitive prices. 

You can also deploy other security measures like SSL certification for increased security. We also recommend that you enforce strong passwords and change them periodically to protect your site from brute force attacks.

As mentioned earlier, always keep your site updated with the latest versions of WordPress along with plugins/themes. 

If you are managing multiple WP sites, deploy a good website management tool like WPCentral to centrally apply bulk updates to all your sites. In some instances, applying updates across multiple versions can cause website crashes or incompatibility issues. To avoid this, take a complete backup of your website and database files so that your site can be quickly restored in case the update runs into such problems. 

In addition, it’s always a good idea to use a staging site to first test all these updates. That way, you could avoid potentially inconveniencing your visitors and customers on the live site. Setting up a staging site manually each time can mean some additional effort. Fortunately, backup plugins like BlogVault, also offer integrated staging options that are easy to set up and use. Once you’re satisfied with the changes, you can directly merge the changes with the live site.  

5. Make Regular Backups

Besides the supportive ecosystem and active WordPress Community, free plugins/themes are one of the reasons that make WordPress so popular. Take any WordPress site, and you will find a host of plugins/themes installed to improve its look, feel, and functionality.  

However, installing too many of them, especially ones from untrusted sites makes your site vulnerable to attacks and website crashes. Outdated or low-quality plugins/themes can even slow down your website and negatively impact its performance. 

Periodically, take stock of all your installed plugins/themes and remove those that you are no longer using. Additionally, get rid of all abandoned plugins/themes from your site that are no longer being maintained by their developers. If you have installed any nulled or pirated versions of themes and plugins, delete them from your site immediately as they are often riddled with malware.

That brings us to an end on the common causes of WordPress website crashes. Before we wrap up, we would like to give you an important tip to ensuring your website is safe even in the event of a website crash. 

The first priority when your website has crashed is to restore it to normalcy. You can only do this if you have taken regular backups of your website files and database records.

While there are different ways to backup a WordPress site, there are challenges. Manual backups can be taxing and require technical knowledge. Backups from your host aren’t always reliable either.  Thus, cloud-based backup plugins are a good investment as they automate the entire backup process for periodic backups and also securely store multiple versions in independent cloud locations. They are easy to set up and use, and you can use them for daily or real-time backups of your website.

However, a backup is only as good as its ability to be restored. Common problems with most backup services are complex restore processes and the risk of restoring a corrupted backup version. It’s important to choose a trusted backup plugin like BlogVault that has a test-restore function coupled with an auto-restore process that is guaranteed to work.

Summary – Dealing With Website Downtime Professionally

Website downtime at some point is inevitable. That’s why it’s important to get ready for when it does happen especially if you manage websites for your clients. With the tools, services, and process explained in this post, you’ll have everything you need to ensure that you can not only restore your website but do so incredibly efficiently.

It’s time to turn website downtime from your worst nightmare to a simple fix with the proper measures and tools in place.

Have we missed out any important tools or methods you’ve used to reduce your website downtime? How do you handle downtime?