Why Does a Website Go Down?

Websites are one of the most important marketing tools for businesses today, which is why it’s important to make sure they’re up and accessible for visitors as much as possible.  A website being ”up” means internet users can access it and all the critical functions are working as they should.

Having a website that’s consistent and reliable strengthens your online presence, reflects well on your business and can also help increase profits – especially if your in-site shopping function is dependable. Your website having consistent up-time can also help improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), helping you reach as many eyes as possible. No website has a 100% (99.9% uptime is still almost 9 hours of downtime a year) uptime rate, so don’t stress too much if it’s down sometimes. Here are some of the main reasons your website might be down and how to fix them:

1. Issues With Updates

If you use WordPress or another content management system to host your website, it might be down due to a server software update from your host that you haven’t installed, causing compatibility issues. This can lead to your site being laggy or even website crashes. You can prevent website downtime by turning on automatic updates to make sure you’re always in the clear and keeping on top of updates; however, keep an eye out for website settings that can sometimes change with updates and cause issues. It is also important to manage website updates carefully for a website using numerous plugins and third-party software – you might consider investing in a website maintenance provider in this instance.

2. Server Overload

Users might not be able to access your website because of server overload. This happens when the server exhausts its resources and can no longer take any more requests. This happens because of spikes in traffic, for example, the first day of an online sale causing significantly more people than usual to try and access the website.

If this is a recurring issue for your website, you should revisit your hosting plan and see if you can upgrade it to suit a higher bandwidth in line with your changing needs. Sometimes this happens deliberately because of malicious attacks, known as distributed denial of service (DDoS). This is when hackers flood a server with fake traffic in order to overload it and cause website outages, negatively affecting performance and uptime. You can prevent this by making sure your host offers DDoS attack protection.

3. Host Provider Error

If your site is down for everyone, and you’re running the latest version and haven’t made any changes on your end, it’s likely an issue with your web hosting provider, and it’s their responsibility to fix the problem.

Often, this happens because your provider is running maintenance or experiencing server issues. If this happens, the best course of action is to contact your web hosting service and alert them, so they can fix the issue as soon as possible.

The right host will have multiple backup options in place to minimise downtime, such as multiple data circuits from different internet providers and backup generators to prevent outages. Most hosting companies also provide a guarantee, like 99.99% up-time – or only 52 minutes of downtime per year.

4. Human Error

No one is infallible, and human error is one of the most common reasons for website downtime. If you’ve recently made changes to your website, the developer might have made an error in the website code as simple as a typo. Websites need every line of code to be perfect to function properly, and with this level of precision, mistakes are bound to happen from time to time.

One way to prevent this and minimise your website’s downtime is to use a staging environment as the last step when you make any changes to your website. A staging environment is a copy of your website that allows you to test functionality and fix any bugs before the website goes live. This can reduce downtime significantly.

5. Expired Domain and DNS Issues

Your domain name expiring can also cause website downtime. Your domain name is your unique website address that appears after the www and is separate from the website hosting service. When you enter a domain name into your browser, it sends a request to the global server network that forms the Domain Name System (DNS).

You have to continuously renew your domain name, otherwise your website will go down. If you try to access your website and get a “This site can’t be reached” error, an expired domain is probably why.

You’ll be able to prevent this by setting your domain name to renew automatically so it doesn’t expire without your knowledge. This is important as not renewing your domain name makes it possible for other people to purchase, meaning your domain name could be up for grabs.

Your website could also experience downtime due to a domain name server outage. Just like web-hosting server outages, this can happen because of DDoS attacks against the provider, outages, or human error on the network administrator’s part. Choosing a reliable, reputable DNS provider can prevent this.

Here’s How to Check if a Website Is Down

The first step is to do a quick check if your website is down for everyone, users in certain locations, or just you. If only one user has told you they’re unable to access your website, don’t panic yet, as it could be a network or computer issue on their end.

To check the status of your website, enter your URL, then hold down shift while refreshing to make sure you’re seeing the current state of your website and not a cached version. You can also open it in an incognito tab or another browser.

If the website is working fine, the problem could just be on the individual user’s end. If this is the case, you can provide the user with tips to get the website back up and running for them, e.g., clearing out their cache, restarting their router, or contacting their internet service provider.

Just like most problems these days, there are online tools to help. You can also check your website availability by using website monitoring tools such as IsItDownRightNow or DownForEveryoneOrJustMe. These free tools will show whether a website is experiencing downtime issues in one click. It’s super easy to use – just enter the URL or the IP address of your website, hit enter, and it’ll help you determine whether the site works or not immediately.

When you receive feedback from a user that your website is down, but it’s still working for you, it’s also good to check whether the website is just down in certain locations. You can do this for free by using online website checker tools like HostTracker. HostTracker can send “pings” to 158 servers across the globe to see if your website is down in any specific areas.

What Is Website Uptime and Website Downtime?

Website uptime is simply the amount of time your website is “up” and accessible and functional for users. It’s a business-metric because having good uptime and response time can improve productivity and profits. Website downtime is the opposite metric, tracking the amount of time a website is ‘down’ or inaccessible.

Website Monitoring Tools

There are tools to check a website’s uptime and even track this data, as well as other metrics such as response time (how fast your website loads to users) and functionality.

Uptime checker and monitoring tools can notify you as soon as there’s a problem or your site goes down, so you can troubleshoot it as soon as possible and minimise downtime. It allows you to run reports, testing the reliability of your web hosting provider and holding their 99.99% uptime guarantee to the test.

Paid vs. Free Website Uptime Monitoring

Many uptime monitoring tools offer a free tier or free trials but paid uptime monitoring tools such as UpTrends have more features. Features you’ll have to pay for include monitoring multiple sites, mobile push notifications when your website status changes, and DNS monitoring. More advanced plans generally provide more information and can help you figure out the root causes of issues.

A paid uptime monitoring or website availability tool will also check whether your website is down more frequently, for example, every 30 seconds instead of every 5 minutes. However, if you’re running a personal website or a small online store, using the free options will suit you just fine – it’s just important you have one.

  • Juliette Owen-Jones
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