Top ways to avoid a website crash
In last year’s survey commissioned by the online platform Squixa, and conducted by AnswerCrowd, an Australian crowd sourced consumer intelligence provider, 71% of the respondents said they are more likely to make online purchases from websites with fast load times. Whilst 43% of the respondents said they would immediately navigate away from websites if it takes more than 15 seconds to load, with only 1 in 5 of them willing to revisit the site (whether for online shopping, reading news or viewing other content).
So imagine what happens if somebody searches for you online and end up served with an “Error 404 page” or “Server not found” error message. The visitor will most likely move on to a competitor’s page and you end up losing a potential customer. This is how crucial a website’s performance to your business. The moment your website crashes, even for only a few hours, the risk of losing more prospects increases.
There are a myriad of reasons why a website could go down:
- Server overload/problem – High traffic sites like online shopping stores and social networking sites are prone to this problem. When there are too many people trying to access your site through desktop and mobile, your server will find it difficult to process all the requests at the same time. This will result to a slow down to a crawl in loading of pages, and eventually your website will crash. Although traffic spike is a good problem to have, you still don’t want your site to shut down before or during a launch, promo, or upcoming event just like what happened last year when all major Australian telco websites (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) crashed due to a deluge of pre-orders for the iPhone 6 before its release.
- Web hosting provider issues – Many of web hosts impose bandwidth cap or data cap. If your host decides you have consumed enough bandwidth this month, expect your website to suffer. Other hosting issues include unannounced host server/software upgrades, host server is slow or it’s down.
- Cyber attack – This is perhaps the most common problem of websites these days. Cyber criminals don’t just attack a website to steal data. They can spam your site and hold it for ransom. Cyber attacks can be targetted or random – it doesn’t matter if you are a large or small company.
- Human error – People manage and update a website. One code error and your website is already inaccessible. Accidental or intentional file deletion, unskilled operation, or experimentation can also shut down your site.
- Content management system/platform issues (e.g. WordPress) – Some CMS are not robust and flexible enough to handle growing data and queries. Too many plugins can also harm your site. And just like the rest of us, CMS can also be victims of hacking.
- Component failure – This covers faulty hardware components, software defects, programming errors, viruses, file corruption, etc.
- Natural disaster – There some situations that’s out of your control like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, storms, etc. Businesses maintaining on-site servers are particularly prone to these unforeseen events.
The truth is, every website crashes. It’s inevitable because websites are dependent on machines and on human beings – machines break and people make mistakes. Even major sites like Google, Twitter, Instagram, TechCrunch, eBay, Myer, and others have to deal with this problem. If it happened to them, it can happen to you as well. But there are measures you can take to ensure you’re least likely to encounter this problem.
Here are steps you can take to avoid a website crash:
1. Get the right hosting. Choosing the right web host can make a huge difference for your business. Trust only a reliable web hosting provider. Free web hosting may save you a lot of money now but the risks are far greater. Search for a web host with a robust technology and reliable tech support. You want someone you can get hold of in the middle of the night, even on weekends and holidays. Inquire about firewall protection, email services, FTP access, domain name registration, website building tools and where your files will be stored.
a) Shared Servers – The cheapest option, but can result to slower loading of pages because the servers are supporting other websites. This is not the best option if you are expecting a lot of traffic.
b) Dedicated Servers – More reliable than shared servers but definitely more expensive. This can handle overloads better than the shared versions because they only deal with traffic for one website. On the other hand, managing a dedicated server means all your important website files are there. You’re also limited to the bandwidth and processing capabilities of that server. If the hardware goes down on the server or there are other issues with the host, your site goes down, and it would take some time to restore your backup with new hardware.
c) Scalable Cloud Hosting – If you think you’ll be constantly dealing with major traffic spikes, this could be the best option for you. There are various scalable cloud hosting solutions to choose from that will run your server instance in a virtualized environment. Your website can easily be scaled up to get more resources if there’s an unexpected surge in traffic or scaled down if traffic is low.
2. Use a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN is a cloud-based automatic scaling service designed to optimise the delivery of any type of content, including software and video. With a CDN in place, your visitors can access same content simultaneously and you’ll never have to worry about them crashing your site. They can quickly download your content wherever they are in the world. Best for websites which offer online shopping services or travel reservations. If your market is just local, you may opt not to get this.
3. Other must-haves: anti-virus software, spam filters and firewalls. Be sure everything is in place and constantly updated. It’s also a must to use only the latest versions for your content management systems, shopping carts, message boards, etc. Sometimes bugs or security threats are found in older versions which can cause a website to crash or operate unexpectedly.
4. Be clear with data caps. For those who expect regular usage, a data cap for bandwidth is not a problem. However, if you think you will soon have to deal with a surge in your traffic, better contact your webmaster or your tech team. Check if you have basic data caps in place with your website host. If yes, have it removed. This might require some additional expense on your part, but it will be well worth it to ensure that your website will work smoothly.
5. Get rid of unnecessary plugins. Install only quality themes and plugins. You don’t need to install every new plugin that gets released, only a few essential ones will do.
6. Backup regularly. Keep regular (ideally daily) backups of your website’s files, including all databases being used. This should be part of your disaster recovery strategy. If your website crashes, a recent backup will ensure your site’s content will remain current. Always aim for the shortest possible time to get your site back up after a disaster. Spend time testing your capability and running scenarios.
If despite best efforts your website still crashes, don’t panic. Call and inform your hosting provider. If you’re in the middle of a marketing campaign, postpone it as soon as possible before you end up with angry, unsatisfied customers. Immediately acknowledge the problem and reassure your customers through social media that you are working hard to quickly repair the problem.
Finally, learn from your experience. This is the best time to evaluate your hosting provider, especially if the process of resolving the issue ends up being lengthy.
If you have website issues or in the market for a reliable website solutions provider, give us a CALL.