Maintaining an easily accessible website is a key component of any business in today’s digital age. A well-designed website not only offers valuable information but also fosters trust among customers, says Daniel Pearson, CEO of KnownHost
However, the consequences of website downtime can be quite severe, ranging from tarnishing your brand’s image to affecting your financial performance.
In this article, I will explore the primary causes of website downtime and offer strategies that website owners should contemplate to mitigate this issue.
Understand Server and Hosting Needs
One of the fundamental pillars of website reliability is choosing the right server and hosting provider. The server your website is hosted on plays a pivotal role in ensuring seamless access for your visitors.
But remember, not all hosting providers are created equal. It’s essential to select a reputable provider that aligns with your business needs. Assess factors like uptime guarantees, customer support, and scalability options when making your choice.
Your server configuration should be tailored to your specific requirements. Small businesses with low traffic volumes may find shared hosting suitable, while larger enterprises might need dedicated or cloud hosting.
Understanding your traffic patterns and business goals will help you make an informed decision and consider the level of security you will need. For instance, online stores need secure servers to protect customers’ credit card information, whereas a blog will need different features.
Server issues can disrupt website accessibility. Elements like increased traffic, server overload, or an overwhelmed backup server can lead to downtime. To mitigate these risks, consider strategies like load testing to monitor server behavior under different scenarios and load balancing to redirect traffic to other functional servers. These measures can ensure your website remains accessible even during traffic spikes.
Scale Infrastructure to Accommodate Growth
Surging online traffic is a dream for any business. More traffic means more customers and potentially more sales. But website traffic can be too much of a good thing and you can become a victim of your own success. For instance, 60 percent of customers are unlikely to return to a site if they encounter an error.
If you don’t take proactive steps to address performance, high traffic can lead to overload, causing a website to crash during critical moments, like a product launch or sale.
Slack, the workplace chat app, has experienced several outages over the years. Most recently in July this year, reports began spiking in the early morning that users across the globe may be experiencing trouble with sending messages. Luckily, it seems the issue had been resolved around an hour later and employees could carry on as normal.
To prevent such scenarios, businesses need to scale their infrastructure effectively. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can be a game-changer for websites expecting high traffic. They are a layer between a site’s server and its users that enhances the speed and ease of accessing the site.
By distributing content across multiple servers strategically located worldwide, CDNs reduce the load on your primary server and enhance website performance. This way, CDN acts as a buffer that can continue providing content to your users even when your website is down.
Apart from being a handy solution for short outages, CDN can also prevent malicious bots from entering your site and help filter your traffic by analyzing the IP addresses.
Combining a CDN with traditional web hosting can be an effective strategy to prevent downtime during traffic spikes.
Update Software and Plug-Ins
Outdated software and incompatible plug-ins can compromise website security and performance, leading to downtime.
While plugins can make a website more or add functionality to features like maps or forms. If you have a lot of plugins installed, it will slow down your site’s performance. The more plugins installed, the more resources are needed to run them.
Incompatible plug-ins can conflict with code or require excessive resources, leading to performance issues. As a site owner, it’s important to consider what type of plugin you’re adding, the resources it requires and what value it offers. For instance, a contact form plugin may not require much bandwidth or processing power compared to an image gallery that displays lots of images at once.
Not only this, but plugins can also quickly become out of date and may not always maintain compatibility with your CMS or e-commerce platform.
Outdated software can become a liability when resource requirements exceed what it can handle. Implement an update strategy that includes regular software and security updates and continuous monitoring for vulnerabilities. Staying up-to-date is crucial for safeguarding your website against potential downtime.
Safeguard Against DDoS Attacks
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have been on the rise, with 2023 witnessing a significant increase in their frequency. Cybercriminals who practice DDoS attacks use hacked networks to flood servers with traffic, sending more requests than the target server can handle.
There are various forms of DDoS attacks, such as a Smurf attack or spoofing attacks, which can cripple a website’s functionality.
Even when an attack fails to crash a website, it often slows the site down enough to make it unusable, frustrating customers and causing significant revenue losses. Also, sometimes DDoS attacks are used to distract cybersecurity operations while other criminal activity like data theft or network infiltration is underway.
As always, prevention is better than trying to survive an attack. Web application firewalls are a good place to start because they’ll be able to differentiate between DDoS attacks and legitimate traffic. By relying on a firewall, you can protect your website from these attacks and ensure your customers enjoy uninterrupted access to your site.
DDoS protection services can detect and mitigate malicious traffic, ensuring that legitimate users can access the site without interruption.
Other ways you can increase your protection against a DDoS attack is to make your hosting infrastructure DDoS resistant. In essence, this means you prepare enough bandwidth to handle spikes that may be caused by cyber attacks.
Regularly updating your security measures to stay ahead of evolving threats and ensure you have a plan in place in case a DDoS attack happens as speed is imperative to survive it.
Uncover Coding Errors and Debugging
Coding errors, no matter how small, can have a cascading effect on your website’s stability and functionality. To maintain a stable website, uncover and address common coding errors.
Incorrect grammar or spelling errors can lead to downtime, but that’s not all. Poor error handling, memory leaks, and resource exhaustion are potential malfunctions stemming from coding errors. I recommend conducting thorough code reviews to identify and rectify these issues.
Implement coding best practices and adhere to coding standards to reduce the likelihood of errors. Regularly test your website for vulnerabilities and have a robust debugging process in place to swiftly address any issues that arise.
Taking proactive measures to prevent downtime is an investment in the long-term success and trustworthiness of your online presence.
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