How to Prevent Website Downtime
Last updated on Sep 29, 2016
There are many metrics responsible for the success of your website, such as proper navigation and layout, good content, mobile-friendly design, etc. However, all of that comes later, and the primary and foremost metric that can make or break your website is the uptime offered by your web host.
After all, if your site remains down for a long period of time, your web presence will suffer immensely .
Now, how should you prevent downtime for your site? Is there anything that you can do? Even more so, what should you do if and when it does happen? This article will answer these questions.
Select a Good Web Host
The first step here is to select a proper web hosting provider. A reliable and reputed web host will ensure that the servers are never overloaded, and the hardware is in order so that downtime does not happen.
Of course, minor issues and mishaps can still occur, but by and large, your web host should leave no stone unturned when it comes to evading and preventing downtime.
Furthermore, if downtime does happen, a good web hosting provider does not ignore or deny it. Instead, your web host should proactively inform you and other clients about the cause behind the downtime — DDoS attack, RAID failure or even a misbehaving account, and then work towards fixing it.
However, selecting a proper web host is just one side of the coin. There are additional steps that you can take to further ensure that your website stays up!
Keep Your Website in Order
You might be wondering, how can server downtime be related to your website?
Well, “downtime” does not refer to server issues only. Of course, hardware or server-side problems are the larger reason for downtime, but your website can at times bring itself down too.
Be sure to keep your scripts, themes and plugins updated. Furthermore, use less plugins and scripts, and whenever possible, opt for ones that are popular and reliable.
You might have come across errors such as 502 or 503. Generally, these occur when your account uses more than its fair share of resources, which in turn might be caused by a poorly coded script or plugin on your website. Of course, this can also refer to a large number of visitors being online at the same time, but if the traffic stats are normal, you can be sure that it is a misbehaving script.
Rely on a CDN
Using content delivery network (CDN) services such as CloudFlare can also help you minimize your downtime to a certain degree. Basically, CloudFlare and MaxCDN, as well as many other CDN providers, offer you an option to send traffic to your site via their nameservers. As such, if your web host’s servers are down, your CDN provider can still serve a cached version of your site to your users.
This can be helpful if your website offers a more or less static version. Features such as comments, form submissions, sign ups, etc. will not work, obviously. But for a cached site with basic content, your CDN can help you beat the downtime issue for a while.
What To Do if Downtime Happens?
So you tried it all, yet encountered some downtime? It happens.
If your website is down, you can follow certain basic steps. First up, be sure that it is not an issue centric to the resources related to your website. Look through cPanel usage stats and error logs. Plus, if your site is giving a 503 error, be sure it has something to do with your site only (especially if you are on LiteSpeed servers running CloudLinux).
Thereafter, contact your web host. Create a support ticket, so that you get an early response. Or if there is live chat available, use it! I have yet to come across a web host that actually offers decent technical support on the phone, so you would be better off using tickets or chat to contact them in this regard. Plus, if the downtime stretches for a longer duration of time, and you hear nothing from your web host, do not bump the same support ticket again and again by replying to it. Instead, contact the host via their social media channels (especially Twitter, every web host worth its salt is active on Twitter) or popular outlets such as Web Hosting Talk.
The harsh reality is that downtimes do happen, and you can only try to avoid them as much as possible. Every once in a while, even if it is just a couple of minutes in a year, you will find your servers in trouble. Facebook and Blogger too have had their downtimes in recent past, so very clearly, a smaller web server is no exception.
What does matter however is, how well you are prepared for such scenario! Picking the better web host, and keeping your website well-maintained and away from poorly coded scripts, as well as relying on additional services such as CDN can really come in handy.
Lastly, do not forget to set up an uptime monitor for your site, because in order to combat downtime, you first need to be aware of it. Pingdom, Uptime Doctor and Uptime Robot are good and popular choices for this. If you are a WordPress user, Jetpack plugin has a Monitor module that can keep track of your site’s uptime.
Review Hell Reminder: No matter how much confidence you may have in your web host create YOUR OWN regular backups! Backup reminders have been repeated countless times throughout this website, but it’s SO important. If it helps any webmasters from loosing their data or being stuck offline without a backup to switch to a new host with it’s well worth this redundancy.
Sufyan is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, Linux, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. Learn more about his works on sufyanism.com