No matter how good someone is at building websites, eventually there will be downtime. This situation is never an “if.” It is always a “when.” While this can happen for a variety of reasons, the most important step is to stay calm and then determine what caused the outage. The three most important things to do when hosting is down are outlined below.
1. Check Security
When someone is new at hosting, it is easy to panic each when sites will not load. In many cases, the server might be rebooting or the host is performing routine maintenance. At other times, it may be as simple as an Internet connection not working properly and blocking access to anything on the Web. There are also those occasions when something is really wrong with a site and an investigation is required.
If a site is down, the first thing to look at is security. When running static HTML code, it is very unlikely to be hacked, but the account on the server itself may be compromised, which allows hackers to inject malicious code and links, or even redirect the DNS if the domain is hosted there. In that scenario, the account password should be changed immediately and all the files should be replaced from a clean backup. The host should be notified about the situation in case it wants to take additional measures.
In the case of a database-driven CMS like WordPress, a hack is a very serious and complex problem that can be related to a brute-force attack, a mySQL injection, insecure plugins or malicious code in a theme. This is why it is so important to back up a WordPress site on a regular basis, so when a hack occurs, the site can be restored and running again in no time.
2. Check the Domain
Another source of website downtime is domain problems. This can range from simply forgetting to renew all the way up to having the name stolen because the domain lock was not turned on. If the hosting is down, check the status at the registrar to ensure the domain is pointing to the correct server. It pays off to double or triple check the locking status and make sure the bill has been paid on time to prevent someone from stealing the name.
If the domain has expired, the site may be down for an extra one to two days even after payment because it will need to propagate through the DNS system once again. If the hosting company is managing the domain, it should be asked to check the DNS and ensure that automatic payments are being made to stop any future issues.
To prevent domain name theft, always lock the domain after the DNS is set and everything is working at the website. An unlocked domain could become the target of a hijack after 45 days and could prove difficult to get back. This scenario also causes extensive website downtime.
3. Upgrade the Hosting
Most websites start off very small and grow over time. Landing on the front page of Reddit, or being the subject of a high-profile news story can cause a server to crash along with the targeted website. When this happens, upgrading the hosting package should be considered. Most hosting companies can do this update seamlessly.
In some cases, large and resource-intensive websites such as WordPress exceed memory and CPU limits on shared hosting, which can cause the site to show errors or become unavailable. When this happens, it is time to consider a managed solution. A managed WordPress host will take care of security and upgrades as well as spikes in traffic, CPU and memory usage. This will keep the site online and running much faster than it did previously. While managed hosting is more costly than shared, it is a worthwhile investment for a mission-critical website to avoid downtime.
It can be very distressing when hosting is down, especially when the cause is not obvious. Downtime can quickly translate into frustrated visitors, lost revenue and reduced SEO. By using the three tips above, site owners can quickly get to the root of the problem and be up and running again in no time.