We’ve all been there. We type a URL into the search bar or select a website on Google only to find we can’t access it. It’s pretty frustrating and can ultimately put us off visiting that website again or picking that business to buy from.
Now, consider a potential customer finding the same when they visit your website – it’s worrying, right?
But the reality is, websites go down all the time. Whether it’s down to network and connectivity problems, issues with your content management system (CMS), third-party service failures or simple human error, there are 1,001 reasons your website could be down. The real question, though, is what can you actually do about it?
Below, we’ll walk you through how to tell if your website (and not simply the device your visitor is attempting to access it from) is down – and use three of the best tools out there to do it. Let’s go!
IsItDownRightNow is a great tool for quickly checking the status of your own, or any other, website. All you need to do to use it is:
- Visit the website: https://www.isitdownrightnow.com/
- Type the URL of your site into the text box provided
- Click ‘Check’
- Receive information on your website
IsItDownRightNow will provide you with a host of useful information, including:
- Whether your website is up or down
- Your website response time
- The last time it was down
This is very useful if customers have contacted you about not being able to visit your site, as you’ll be able to see whether the site has previously been down and when this was.
Another popular tool for checking the status of your website is Host Tracker. Again, this is a simple-to-use platform. Just follow these steps:
- Visit the website: https://www.host-tracker.com/
- Click ‘Instant Check Your Website’
- Type your URL in the search box, click ‘Check’
- Wait for your results to load
This tool will show you the results of a ‘ping’ sent from 158 agents from across the world. In more simple terms, this checks whether your website is working from 158 different locations across the globe, helping you understand if there are any general or localized issues with accessing your site.
If you are interested in a specific region of the globe, you can also pick to just ping from agents specifically in:
- East Europe
- North America
- South America
- West Europe
This functionality is especially helpful if you are receiving reports from customers located in one place.
Host Tracker also comes with a ‘host’ of other helpful tools. For example, it also allows you to run reports on:
The most helpful tool offered by Host Tracker is the ability to set up notifications for when your site goes down. This is incredibly valuable to help you quickly identify issues with your site and remedy them as quickly as possible. However, you do need to pay a small monthly or annual fee to receive this service which starts from just $14 a month.
The final tool we’ll be reviewing and recommending is Uptrends. This site works in a similar way to Host Tracker’s Ping search, as it allows you to identify any issues with accessing your website from various locations across the globe.
However, the results are a little easier to read and also include an average load time for each location, making it clear where an issue may be occurring.
To use Uptrends simply:
- Visit the website: https://www.uptrends.com/tools/is-my-website-down
- Type your URL into the ‘I want to test’ box
- Select ‘all checkpoint’ or a specific location of your choosing
- Click ‘Start Test’
- Check out your results
Uptrends also offer a notification service much like Host Tracker so you can keep on top of changes to your website.
We’ve covered some helpful and quick ways that you can check the status of your website. But what if the worst happens and you find that it’s down? The first thing you need to work out is why. Below we’ve listed seven of the most common reasons a website might be down:
- Errors with your code. Just a small change in your website code can lead to your site crashing. Even something as simple as a typo can have a catastrophic impact.
- Plugin issues. Many websites use plugins to add functionality, ranging from stock control to SEO. These plugins are really helpful, but if you forget to update them then they can lead to website crashes. Most plugins are safe to use, but some are less reliable – check reviews before installing third-party plugins to avoid accidentally introducing bugs to your website.
- Your domain has expired. This one is pretty simple to understand – if you don’t renew your domain, then your website will go down.
- Hosting or server issues. Your website is likely hosted on an external server. For example, many websites are hosted by Bluehost. Sometimes servers face issues such as severe weather, which can lead to your website going down.
- An overload of site traffic. Of course, you want lots of traffic to your website. However, if your site isn’t prepared for spikes in traffic then too many visitors at once can drastically slow your site down, eventually causing it to crash.
- DNS errors. The Domain Name Server (DNS) is important in helping people easily access your website. However, there are occasionally issues with DNS, such as attacks on DNS providers, which can lead to your website crashing.
- An attack on your website. Website attacks are probably more common than you might think. Attacks can be launched for any number of reasons – from politically or socially motivated attacks to hackers seeking out financial gain. A lot of attacks are totally random, which is why it’s important to secure your website the best you can.
- Content Management System issues. For instance, your CMS version and server software may have become incompatible – and plugin or theme conflicts might have snuck in. If your CMS’s core files become corrupt, this can tank your website, too.
- Network and connectivity problems. Network congestion, routing issues, and proxy server errors – or misconfiguration – are all surefire ways to bring your website down. Be sure, too, to check that your site’s firewall or security settings are all firing – on all cylinders.
- Third-party service failures. Failure of external APIs or web services, issues with payment gateways or transaction processors, and CDN outages are typically events you can’t control – but that doesn’t mean they don’t occur. And, when these third-party services do go down, they often take your website with them.
- Human error or accidental actions. Accidental deletion – or modification of – critical files? Misconfiguration of server or website settings? Unauthorized changes by inexperienced personnel? Failure to renew SSL certificates or security measures? If any of these sound familiar, you’ve already experienced the impact human error can have on your website’s uptime.
Knowing why your site is down can take a little detective work. Ultimately, you may need to reach out to an IT professional or company to help you work out why your site is down and what you can do about it.
We’ve walked you exactly how to check if your website is down, and covered some common reasons why this might be – but what should you actually do if you find that your website is down?
Steps to Diagnose Website Downtime
The first step is diagnosis. To do this:
- Check that your site is actually down (using one of the tools we reviewed above). Be sure, too, to check your site’s server status: verifying the server resources and capacity, and checking the server logs for errors.
- Be thorough. Test your website on different devices and browsers, and – if it’s still down – clear your browsers cache and cookies. After all, your site may just appear down – because of where or how you’re accessing it – and actually still be live and functioning just fine.
- Determine why your website is down (to do this, revisit and work through the list of possible reasons why your website has crashed – we’ve outlined them all above).
Troubleshooting and Resolving Website Downtime
Now you know your site is actually down, it’s time to spring into action. To troubleshoot your website downtime – and get it resolved. To do this:
- Contact your IT department or hosting company. Report the issue and ask for their support – if you’re not able to figure out why your website is down, or fix it yourself, this is almost always your next best bet. When you get through to them, request a server status update to make sure it’s not a wider issue – or one already flagged by the other sites that company supports.
- Review your domain name. Verify your domain name’s registration and expiration date – if your domain name is down, your site will be, too!
- Check for recent changes or updates. Any recent modifications to your website’s code or software could be the downtime reason you’re looking for.
- Check for security breaches, and implement security measures. Nasty bugs or malware can be a big reason why sites go down. Make sure you strengthen your security protocols if needed.
- Keep calm and carry on. Even the biggest companies experience website outages – the key is to just to grit your teeth, focus on the immediate issue to hand, and get it resolved as soon as possible.
Preventive Measures to Minimize Downtime
Ultimately, taking steps to secure your website before it goes down is going to save you a lot of time, effort, and stress in the long run. (Prevention is, of course, almost always better than the cure!) So what can you do to minimize your website’s downtime going forward?
- Backup and disaster recovery. By regularly backing up your website and its data – and storing those backups in separate locations or in the cloud – you can quickly restore your website in the event of a major data loss.
- Optimizing its performance. Through minimizing file sizes, enabling caching, and using content delivery networks (CDNs) to distribute content geographically, you can speed up your website: reducing downtime and improving the user experience.
- Balancing the load. By implementing load balancing techniques, you can distribute incoming traffic across multiple servers. This helps prevent overloading of a single server – and ensures better performance and uptime.
- Optimize and improve your website. The best way to stop your website from going down again is to understand the causes of its issues to begin with. So dive deep into the data, and analyze your website’s performance metrics. These could include page load time, and website uptime and response time.
- Set up a domain name auto-renewal. (Or a reminder when your domain is about to expire.) This way, your site will never get caught without a domain name – and will stay looking, and performing at, its peak!
Communicating with Users and Customers
Of course, a big part of handling site downtime isn’t just diagnosing and troubleshooting the issue – it’s keeping your site visitors, and customers, informed. To do this:
- Get on social media. Twitter, in particular, is brilliant for quickly, clearly communicating website downtime issues to your customers.
- Be prompt! The speedier your communication is, the more positively your audience will perceive you now, and going forward.
- Set up a maintenance page. In lieu of your site’s actual content, a basic landing page telling visitors that your site is currently down – but that you’re working fervently to get it back up and running again – is a good way to keep them in the loop, and ease their concerns.
- Share, share, share! When it comes to information about your site’s downtime, err on the side of too much – it’s better than not enough. This way, you’ll build trust, and engender loyalty, with your audience.
Most of us don’t lay awake every night worrying about our website going down. That is, until it does go down, and then it’s all we can think about!
Knowing what to do when your website goes down will help you to remain calm and take quick, positive action towards fixing any issues.
The three tools we’ve shown you in this guide will help you to identify any issues with your website and act on them straight away. It’s worth trying them all out now, before your site crashes, so you can decide which one you find most useful while the pressure is off.
For a more detailed look, explore our guide to what is uptime.
For a more detailed take, explore our guide on how to secure a website.