Guide To Survive Website Downtimes
Your website is the face of your business in the digital world. User confidence can take a big hit and ultimately cause a loss in revenue during downtimes. Therefore, it is important to implement the appropriate measures before it is too late.
What is website downtime and what causes it?
A website downtime is basically when a website is not accessible by the users. There are various reasons that might have caused it:
- Planned updates/maintenance: a scheduled update is usually the least of your concern since it is a planned one and should only take place during times when the website is experiencing the least traffic.
- Traffic overload: an unexpected spike in website visitors may cause a website to slow down significantly or even a full site crash; often due to the lack of bandwidth.
- Hacking activities or malware: This is probably the worst case scenario for any website. To clean up a hacked/infected website can be extremely time-consuming. If not dealt with soon enough, business reputation may hit an all time low; triggering a snow-ball effect where poor user experience affects your website search engine ranking (due to high bounce rates) and heavy losses in current and future revenue as customers turn to your competitors. Be extra careful if your website is powered by popular CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and Magento, as statistics showed they are common hacking targets (find out why).
- Data Center or server issues: Your data center choice can make or break your business. A single security breach, occurrence of natural disasters, or simply a lack of reliability can cause your server to crash and result in irreversible damages.
How to prevent a website downtime?
Prevention is always better than cure. Rather than waiting for it to happen, why not take the best practices and give yourself a peace of mind? We will keep it short since we have covered how to prevent your website from getting hacked or infected and what is required of a reliable data center in 2 of our previous posts – Why CMS are Common Hacking Targets and 5 tips for Choosing the Right Data Center.
For planned downtimes, it is always a plus to inform your users prior to the maintenance period to avoid any unwanted surprises. A simple pop-up message on the homepage or email can go a long way.
As for the issue of traffic overload, it is highly recommended to use a CDN service with caching capabilities and security applications to balance website security with performance. It is important to look out for a CDN with globally distributed Points of Presence (PoPs) to lower network latency and offload your origin server so that bandwidth limits will not be exceeded easily. You will be surprised at how much costs savings an effective CDN can give you. However, choosing the right CDN service requires a whole set of different perspectives and knowledge. It is best to consult an expert to save precious time and avoid another potential pitfall.
Most importantly, always do regular backups for your website so that you can revert to a ‘clean’ and fully functional website when things go wrong.
What to do during the downtime?
Such is the complexity of the internet and the ever-evolving cyber threats today; there will always be the slim possibility of a website downtime despite the many measures you may have taken.
In this worst case scenario, damage limitation is key. The primary step for you should be to acknowledge that you are under an attack and keep your customers and readers updated. Your honesty can go some way to redeeming your business credibility as compared to letting your users finding out themselves; especially in cases of a security breach.
Next, restore the latest version of your backup if the situation allows, if not, be sure to have a downtime page in place so that users will not see a mere blank page. The downtime page should have already been done even before any downtime happens.
Simultaneously, you should keep working with the IT team on finding the root cause and solving it the very moment you confirmed that your website is down. Contact your web host for help if possible.
Last but not least, update your users again once the website is back online.