Tips on How to Prevent Website Downtime
By Brenda Barron, Updated: June 5, 2017
Your website is the face of your business.
And internet users want it to show up almost instantaneously when they click on a link to your website from a search engine or go to it directly via URL. In fact, most users expect websites to load in no more than two seconds and just a one-second delay can lead to a huge drop in sales.
Can you even imagine?
If a second or two can make such a huge difference to your bottom line, what would your site being inaccessible altogether do?
If your website is down (or taking ages to load), you can kiss your chances of getting any sales or leads goodbye.
It’s not just the first time visitors.
Even the more loyal ones or regular visitors will get irritated and go for an alternative. That is the reason it’s so important to prevent website downtime.
Why is downtime bad for your website?
Let’s spend some time talking about what can happen if your site goes down unexpectedly.
You lose credibility
A business website that keeps crashing all the time will lose credibility. Your website is the place for you to make a positive first impression. Customers will find it hard to trust a business that can’t even keep its website up, you know?
Your search rankings suffer
If your server is slow and takes more than two seconds in fetching a single URL Google will limit the number of URLs it crawls from your website. That’s not to forget that downtime or a slow server response will result in a high bounce rate.
User experience is one of the many ranking factors Google uses and a high bounce rate indicates poor user experience. One thing affects the next (and the next).
Your profits will take a hit
E-commerce is definitely a mainstay nowadays but customers can still be a little wary of making online purchases. So, if your site is down or slow during peak hours, you give visitors an excuse to jump ship and leave mid-purchase. Worse yet, if your site goes down when a visitors is thinking about buying something you can nearly guarantee that the downtime will cut into your profits by considerable margins.
Top causes of website downtime
A website can crash or go down for several reasons. Below we will discuss some of the most common:
Poor web hosting
A bad web host is one of the most common reasons a site has downtime. There’s no point in investing in your website design, UX, or site speed if your web host is not–if you’ll pardon the pun–up to code. Check out our guide on the top 8 reasons to choose managed WordPress hosting.
Do you remember that famous Oscar selfie? It was retweeted more than 3 million times in less than 24 hours, crashing Twitter on its way to becoming the most-retweeted photo of all time.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
An abnormally high rush of visitors or activity can result in the dreaded “bandwidth limit exceeded” message on your site–or worse–a full site crash.
Hacking attempt or malware
Not all activity is “good” activity. A sharp uptick in site visitors doesn’t always mean that your website has suddenly become the talk of the town.
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack can also result in high activity and lead to a site crash. Similarly, hacking attempts can mess up your website and result in unavailability.
Plugin or theme-related problems
Easy availability of themes and plugins is one of the strongest points of WordPress but sometimes, it turns into a weakness.
A theme or plugin has to be compatible with your WordPress version and the technology used on your web host. External services like CDN, Comment systems, or tracking tools can also cause problems like a very slow website or complete breakdown.
How to Deal with Website Downtime?
Now that we know the culprits, let’s find out how to deal with these problems and ensure highest possible rate of availability of your website.
Set up monitoring
Getting notified straightaway will allow you to take corrective action before it’s too late.
While you’re trying to get it back, don’t forget to inform your users through social media accounts that you are working on the problem and the site will be back in a short while.
You can also set up redirects so they won’t see an error message or blank screen. A “Website Maintenance” page with a short message shows that you are in control of the situation and helps to restore credibility.
Choose a reliable web host
As I mentioned earlier, using a poor web hosting service is often the biggest culprit for site downtime.
Shared hosting plans are good for personal blogs and web pages. But for a business website or blog, it’s a good idea to choose a more resourceful and reliable host.
Also, consider managed WordPress hosting if you don’t have the technical know-how or a full-time webmaster to deal with technical issues.
Good hosts will not only deal with the server side problems but their technical support will be able to identify the problem a lot more quickly and offer solutions on-the-spot.
Recommended to read: The complete guide to server status codes.
Check after making changes to your website
Check your website immediately after making a change in the settings, updating WordPress, installing a new Plugin, and so forth.
Most of the time, upgrades or new installations will go smoothly but glitches can still occur and you don’t want those glitches to be discovered by your visitors before you do.
A new update or installation can also result in “White Screen of Death.” Checking how your site looks right away will ensure that you can quickly trace and correct the problem before any real damage is done.
An even better solution is to use a local server or staging to test updates and site changes before you publish them to the live site.
Improve website’s speed and loading times
When it comes to user experience and conversion optimization, every second counts. While you’re working to ensure a near-100% uptime for your website, you must also work on improving your website’s speed.
If your website is taking over 10 seconds to load, it’s as good as down, because the majority of visitors will be clicking away long before it loads completely.
If the thought of making changes to improve site speed on your own makes you nervous, check out our dedicated guide on the subject to help waylay your fears.
Beef up your website’s security
Hacking attempts and data breaches are a growing menace. According to Sophos Labs, a whopping 30,000 websites get hacked on a daily basis. And these statistics are a couple years old. Reason tells me the current situation is likely much worse.
It’s important to take basic precautions like using the latest version of WordPress and updating plugins (and the latest version of PHP) as soon as new versions are released. You should also use a strong password and changing it every once in a while, too. Also, it’s important to make sure that your file permissions don’t give easy access to hackers.
Your host can also play a major role in protecting your website from DDoS or any other type of hacking attempt.
Make sure you read our Ultimate Guide on WordPress Security.
Make regular backups
You can take all these steps and still experience site downtime. Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw. The unforeseen can happen at any time so it’s important to be prepared with backups.
Luckily, making regular backups is extremely easy with WordPress. Most hosting services provide this option as an add-on and you can also use plugins like BackUpWordPress to further automate the process. At Kinsta, we provide daily backups (both files & DB) to guarantee your data is kept safe so you won’t need any backup plugins.
Having a backup ensures that your website will be up and running in next to no time.
Following the steps outlined above will significantly reduce your site downtime and can help improve your site’s bounce rate and the overall impression you make with visitors and potential customers.
Now over to you. What have you done to reduce website downtime?