Quick guide for dealing with website downtime

What do you do when your website goes down?

Search engines don’t like websites that are frequently out of action. Websites that are down for extended periods of time, (such as over 24 hours) are punished with poor search engine optimisation rankings. Your customers and users also aren’t big fans of websites that stop working, which is why choosing a reliable web hosting company is a critical part of your digital strategy. All websites experience some degree of downtime.

Here’s a list of what you should do if and when downtime occurs.

First, confirm your website is down

Are you sure it’s not your internet connection? Or your device? Before you log the email or call to your web hosting support crew, have a quick check on different devices, preferably from different internet connections. Also use a simple tool to check if a website or IP address is up or down. Try to get as much information about the problem as you can

  • Are there any error messages?
  • Take screen shots

There is hard downtime (high jacked page, dead page, HTTP error) and soft downtime (slow loading pages, stalled pages) and the above steps are really helpful for your web host and can make finding the cause of the problem quicker – as well as the solution.

Just remember a hosting company can host hundreds to millions of sites, so expecting a personalised call of unexpected downtime is unreasonable, unless you are on a gold standard (read expensive as in thousands per month) hosting package that is part of your SLA (service level agreement)

Log your ticket

Naturally, you have your hosting company’s details close at hand. Give them an email or call and try to be as descriptive as possible about the problem. If your hosting company has other contact methods such as ticketing, instant messaging or an online chat service, by all means, use that. Whichever way gets the quickest response and is their preferred method.

Let your customers and users know

This is when you’ll be feeling smug about your excellent social media strategy. Use your social channels to tell your users there’s a problem and that you’re working as fast as possible to fix it. Provide alternative contact details, payment methods or the other details that your users usually go to your website for. Sending a quick email is also a good way to let people know there’s a potential long term problem.

In a perfect world – it’s great if you can notify users before something goes wrong. For example, if routine maintenance is going to be performed and there’s a chance there might be downtime, let customers know. If it happens, customers will be grateful for the heads up. If you can pull off a perfect upgrade or maintenance session without downtime, your customers will be impressed that it was business as usual on the website.

Check in with the website host – but you shouldn’t need to harass them

If your website is hosted by a reliable, secure hosting company they’ll have processes in place that include notifying you when the problem has been fixed. There’s nothing to be gained from calling in again and again to check the status of your website issue. If your hosting company isn’t providing regular status reports or progress updates, there’s a good chance that they’re not worthy of your business. This is not the ideal way to learn that lesson.

Prevention is better than the cure

A secure reliable website is worth its weight in gold. Here are the best-practice methods for preventing a cataclysmic crash in the first place.

  • Buy a DNS back-up service – Domain Name Systems (DNS) translates your domain name into an IP address
  • Invest in a monitoring service – this means alerts are triggered quickly if your site goes down. You will find out before your customers do
  • Back up your database – regular backups are the system equivalents of saving your documents
  • Keep your domain registration up to date – if it expires, you’re site goes down. This is what auto renew is for
  • Use Google Webmaster Tools – the reports provided by Google tell you everything you need to know about your page visibility and any errors Google encounters when crawling it for SEO

At iFactory, we’ve been hosting websites for over a decade. Our Australian based web hosting services are backed up by reliable technology and fast, friendly service professionals, based right here in Brisbane. For more information about preventing website downtime issues, contact us today, +61 7 3844 0577.

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